I wrote this back in the day during a "poetry war" with a friend. I'd never written a sestina. This was one of the later poems, chastising Andon for writing the same meaningless 'trash-talk' in all of his war-poems.
A Sestina: On Writing Poetry
A form is but a package for a poem
It holds no message, taken on its own.
And if one studies poems of the masters
He’ll find, at once, his fallacy is shown-
That his poems, though quite craftily written
Are naught but silly words and haughty tone!
Rhythm, rhyme, and meter—also tone—
All contribute greatly to a poem
But when that poem’s begging to be written
These tools alone cannot make it your own
If only skills with these functions are shown
It makes us ask: “Are you really a master
Of the pen? For, actually, a master
Would possess much more than witty tone--
A message or a story might have shone
Through the words that constructed the poem.
And as he wrote it, he would have to own
That the inspiration sparking what he’d written
Came from somewhere else. And when he’d written
Something worthy of his name, a master
Then would realize that he’ll never own
Anything about it, save the rhyme, rhythm, and tone.
And thus we see the paradox of poems--
In each, the writer’s weakness always shown.
But if, by some sweet chance, there is more shown
Inside that lovely work, so carefully written,
Than shows itself in any other poem
Then, perchance, the writer may have mastered
A piece of himself. Then, he starts to tone
That little piece, until he finally owns
All of himself. And in this quest to own
He finds more of his weaknesses are shown
And then restarts the battle, using rhythm, rhyme, and tone.
And as he looks o’er all the works he’s written
Though this life, he knows he’ll never master
That art that some great ancient called the “Poem."
I hope, throughout this poem, I have written
Something worthy to be shown a master,
And not simply my own sarcastic poem.
I think the main idea presented here--that poetry must be more than merely words plugged into a formula, that there must be meaning somehow, and that that meaning is often inspired from elsewhere--can apply to life on a more general level.
We can't just go through the motions. Even if those motions are exactly what they "should" be, following and exact "form" of what is expected of us-- even if that is the case, they mean less unless some kind of meaning or purpose is established.
The key, I suppose, lies in analysis--and action.