Friday, September 7, 2018

Poetry Friday: Before You (a cento)

The Tattered Cover, Denver, CO

Ever take something that wasn't yours? Did it haunt you?

What about a memory?  Can you borrow another person's eyes and see what they've seen? (Isn't that what fiction does?)

 And how about all the words you've consumed in the course of a reading don't ever give them back, of course, but how many can you reuse in a row without giving the original author credit?

None of these questions are really addressed by this month's challenge, in which the Poetry Sisters "borrow" lines from other poets to make new poems, an art form known as the cento. Still, in creating one, the poet has to decide what the limits of appropriation well as how to make something fresh out of "used" material.

To top it off, there really aren't a lot of rules.

To help with that last point, I threw down two additional guidelines for our centos, mostly to unify them. 

1)  We would each chose a different word from this common stanza to begin:

“This dream of water—what does it harbor?
I see Argentina and Paraguay
under a curfew of glass, their colors
breaking, like oil. The night in Uruguay”
---- "I See Chile in My Rearview Mirror" by Agha Shahid Ali

And then...

2)  Using our chosen word, we would each search the database at for other poems which also had lines containing that word. The lines we found would be the building blocks of our new poems. (All lines are credited to the original poets at the end of our centos.)

I chose the word "see" from Ali's stanza and found it to be the perfect doorway to other poems and poets.  Turns out poets "see" a lot.  Or they think they do.  I could work with that.

Before you

My childhood home I see again, and sadden with the view;
Is this a dream?—I see my grandpa milking,
I see the quilted mountains

I see my mother over the hot oil in the fryers
Are those my brothers, down there, those I see evacuating?
Because I see a part and not the whole,

I see us everywhere. On occasions of fancyness,
I see the lilacs crackling like static
I see it as music, I hear it as light;

I see how our lives have unfolded:
I see her hitchhiking the stars’ tar road—
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

Speak, and I see the side-lie of a truth:
I see Argentina and Paraguay
I can see the flaws in the glass

I see the whole morning before you.

            ----A Cento, compiled by Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Line Credits:

1) My Childhood Home I See Again by Abraham Lincoln
2) One A.M. by David Young
3) Balance, onslaught by Khadijah Queen
4) The Red Sweater by Joseph O. Legaspi
5) Alamogordo 1945 by Adriano Spatola
6) I Know My Soul by Claude McKay
7) Never Ever by Branda Shaughnessy
8) Combustion by Sara Eliza Johnson
9 ) Roads by Amy Lowell
10) White Sands by Arthur Sze
11) The Last Kingdom by Jennifer Foerster
12) My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson
13) Modern Love: XXVI by George Meredith
14)  I See Chile in My Rearview Mirror by Agha Shahid Ali
15) Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood
16) For You by Maureen N. McLane

Please find my Poetry Sisters' links to their centos below.  To a word, they are gorgeous.

Liz (with breaking)
Tanita (with like)
Laura (with glass)
Tricia (with under)

Andi and Kelly are on break.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Beyond LiteracyLink.