Turn off as many lights as you can bear. Except, of course, a little book light or candle so you can write.
As your eyes adjust, you’ll be able to see things, outlines, shapes; write about the darkness surrounding you, what you can see, what you can’t see, and what you wish you could see.
The dreamcatcher is supposed to catch bad dreams and let the good dreams through.
Write down an image remembered from a dream, a word, a sound, a thought, into each space.
Then put them together – or leave them as is.
A dreamcatcher is random. Your poem might be as well. Yet, at some point, some place, in some way, it’ll all come together.
Yuself Komunyakaa is one of my favorite poets. He writes about love and passion, loss and war – all kinds of war, including the Vietnam war in which he served many years ago. Although he’ll write about, he won’t talk about it.
One of the many mysteries of poets. Sometimes purging our pains in poetry is so much easier than clearing our mind with conversation.
I love reading poetry because it inspires me. Does it inspire you?
When they call him Old School
he clears his throat, squares
his shoulders, & looks straight
into their lit eyes, saying,
“I was born by the damn river
& I’ve been running ever since.”
An echo of Sam Cooke hangs
in bruised air, & for a minute
the silence of fate reigns over
day & night, a tilt of the earth
body & soul caught in a sway
going back to reed & goatskin,
back to trade winds locked
inside an “Amazing Grace”
that will never again sound
the same after Charleston,
South Carolina, & yes, words
follow the river through pine
& oak, muscadine & redbud,
& the extinct Lord God bird
found in an inventory of green
shadows longing for the scent
of woe & beatitude, taking root
in the mossy air of some bayou.
Now Old School can’t stop
going from a sad yes to gold,
into a season’s bloomy creed,
& soon he only hears Martha
& the Vandellas, their dancing
in the streets, through a before
& after. Mississippi John Hurt,
Ma Rainey, Sleepy John Estes,
Son House, Skip James, Joe
Turner, & Sweet Emma,
& he goes till what he feels
wears out his work boots
along the sidewalks, his life
a fist of coins in a coat pocket
to give to the recent homeless
up & down these city blocks.
He knows “We Shall Overcome”
& anthems of the flower children
which came after Sister Rosetta,
Big Mama Thornton, & Bo Diddley.
Now the years add up to a sharp
pain in his left side on Broadway,
but the Five Blind Boys of Alabama
call down an evening mist to soothe.
He believes to harmonize is
to reach, to ascend, to query
ego & hold a note till there’s
only a quiver of blue feather
sat dawn, & a voice goes out
to return as a litany of mock
orange & sweat, as we are sewn
into what we came crying out of,
& when Old School declares,
“You can’t doo-wop a cappella
& let your tongue touch an evil
while fingering a slothful doubt
beside the Church of Coltrane,”
he has traversed the lion’s den
as Eric Dolphy plays a fluted
solo of birds in the pepper trees.
In a writing group, we were challenged to write a cento in a given time from poems we were handed. A fun exercise!
Many years ago, in a writing class, I’d taken all the student poems which had a line or two rejected or criticized for whatever reason and placed them together in a poem. I read this in the same class and our Professor recognized what I’d done and appreciated it.
“UnWalden Pond” was published in That’s Going to Hurt a few years ago.
Centos are fun poems to write. Some publishers require citations for each line. Some publishers do not. I think it’s probably a good idea to keep notes of where you got what and call a cento a collage, patchwork, or otherwise identify it for what it is.