By Mandy Pannett
Several things about this book suggest a medieval manuscript – not literally of course, for this is a publication designed for a twenty-first century world – but in the sense of it being precious, valued, holy and unique. The title, which translates as Holy, Holy, For a Long Time Holy emphasises this mood as does the epigraph by Allen Ginsberg. An essential part of the atmosphere is enhanced by the quality of the actual publication itself – fine paper, black and white geometric designs, the luxury of a single line per page, the cover with the rising/falling bird.
Plenty has been written about the constrictions of the Sestina form. The demands of its pattern together with the accompanying anxieties and pitfalls involved in finding six words that repeat and develop the overall piece, are well recorded. By focusing on the single line Desmond Kon has freed the sestina from the grip of its rules. Here the pattern is dispersed – or rather it remains the underlying pulse, the energy behind the language, but no longer obviously so. In this author’s hands it is ‘not bottled’.
Each of the four sestinas addresses a different person or thing. Each has its own motifs, references and moods. Together they offer an impression of paths on a journey, words and symbols which deconstruct, musical notes that digress in improvisation but always return to the theme.