In one of our poetry groups we challenged each other to write a sestina. I had to have a go. I found it very hard to keep to the pattern of using the same repeated words at the end of each line, in a strict order for each stanza. However, the current talk about ‘fake news’, ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts.’ gave me an idea for a subject that may work. Here’s the result, a first-attempt sestina in the (imagined) voice of George Orwell.
Alternative facts in a post-truth fake news world
“The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” George Orwell, in his novel, 1984.
Do you think ‘alternative facts’ are new?
I invented them at the Ministry of Truth.
That was how the Party turned its lies
and our beautiful language into Newspeak,
created thoughtcrime and doublethink,
among other words. It was an easy language to learn
but there were many things people had to unlearn
too, as the old language made way for the new.
It was all that world war two propaganda that made me think
there was always a different way to make the truth
mean something else, new ways to speak
to make the stories seem true, even though they were lies.
I told you back then how they made their lies,
how people worked to change facts, to rewrite, unlearn,
to destroy words, to make ways to use doublespeak
that ruled out the possibility of imagining anything new,
so there was only one way to see the truth
so that truth itself becomes irrelevant. Think,
think, what is happening today. Don’t you think
your own leaders have found the way to turn their lies
into a new kind of 21st century post-truth?
They give you all those new words to learn
and you take on all the views in their fake news,
in this novel way of talking, this all-new way to speak.
And the powers will notice the way you speak,
thought police will see what you are thinking,
and you won’t even know that your language is new.
That it’s full of alternative facts, yes, lies –
fabulous new so-called truths for you to learn --
and none of it has any relation to the actual truth.
If you repeat it enough, everyone will believe it’s true:
War is peace, freedom is slavery, it’s just doublespeak.
Ignorance is strength. It’s so easy to learn.
They will tell you 2plus2 is five and you’ll think
it is true. You will believe this and all their lies.
They will destroy your words, so you can’t imagine anything new.
Alternative facts, fake news, you can’t think
how to speak to burn all their lies.
It’s superdoubleungood -- now there’s a new word you can learn.