Tell it Slant: How to Write a Wise Poem, essay by Camille Dungy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Few essays on writing poetry grab me by the collar, slam me against the wall, and say “Listen, dammit!” But this one did.

Camille Dungy’s words sear through the fog. She tells it slant. She tells it true. She explains how some masters have done it. If you’ve not read her poetry, seek it out. You’re in for a treat. If you have the good fortune to attend a lecture or reading by her, do so. She’s energetic, wise and kind. She knows.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/247926

Originally posted in June 2014.

National Poetry Month: A Few of My Favorite Poems & Poets

I love these poems and poets for various reasons – technique, beauty of language, intellect, rigor – but mostly, their words burrow into my brain and won’t quit whispering to me…

Jane Hirshfield, “Not Moving Even One Step”

Carolyn Forche, “The Colonel”

Arthur Sze: “Kintsugi”

Antonella Anedda: “A Winter Night in the City”

James Wright: “To the Saguaro Cactus Tree in the Desert Rain”

Camille Dungy, “Association Copy”

Who are your favorites? Link in the comments.

Recording of “Awakened, He Turns to the Wall (Cento)”

cell

 


Awakened, He Turns to the Wall (Cento) 

Then, everything slept.
Where were you before the day?

You see here the influence of inference,
whereby things might be seen in another light,

as if the trees were not indifferent, as if
a hand had suddenly erased a huge

blackboard, only, I thought there was
something even if I call it nothing,

like the river stretching out on its
deathbed. No one jumps off.

* * *

A cento is composed of lines from poems by other poets. This originated from pieces by: Larry Levis, Jacques Roubaud, Lorine Niedecker, Gustaf Sobin, Denise Levertov, Elizabeth Spires, William Bronk, Vicente Huidobro, Ingebord Bachmann

For further information and examples of the form, you might peruse the Academy of American Poets site: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poetic-form-cento

erase

Resurrection (Cento)

rocks and fog


Resurrection (Cento) 

Everything we love
returns to the ground.

Each syllable is the work of sabotage,
a breeze seeping from the heart of the rocks.

They are my last words
or what I intend my last words to be.

I think just how my shape will rise,
a miracle, anywhere light moves.

*****

A cento is composed of lines borrowed from other poets. “Resurrection” first appeared here in January 2016, and owes its existence to the poetry of Tishani Doshi, Paul Auster, Antonella Anedda, Sean Hill, Emily Dickinson, and Ruth Ellen Kocher. I urge you to seek out their work. It astounds!

ladybug

At Sunrise We Celebrate the Night’s Passage

sunrise

At Sunrise We Celebrate the Night’s Passage

And discuss not the darkness of crows, but the structure of phonemes
embedded in our names, the gratitude of old fences, of broken

circles and extinguished flame.

Two weeks ago he poured wine and declared himself Dog.

There are roosters, too, who cannot crow,
other speechless men, and lonely burros guarding brush piles.

What letters form silence? From what shapes do we draw this day?

Light filters through the cedars and minutes retract,

as the bull’s horns point first this way, then that, lowering themselves
through the millennia, becoming, finally, A as we know it.

With my tongue, I probe the space emptied of tooth.

Barbed wire was designed to repel, but when cut sometimes curls

and grabs, relinquishing its hold only by force or careful negotiation.
Symbols represent these distinct units of sound.

My name is two houses surrounding an eye.

Yours consists of teeth, the bull, an arm, the ox goad.

barb

Originally published in Prime Number Magazine, one of my favorite online literary journals, in 2013, and posted here in September 2015. Cantinflas the donkey makes a cameo appearance in this poem…

Awakened, He Turns to the Wall (Cento)

cell

Awakened, He Turns to the Wall (Cento) 

Then, everything slept.
Where were you before the day?

You see here the influence of inference,
whereby things might be seen in another light,

as if the trees were not indifferent, as if
a hand had suddenly erased a huge

blackboard, only, I thought there was
something even if I call it nothing,

like the river stretching out on its
deathbed. No one jumps off.

* * *

A cento is composed of lines from poems by other poets. This originated from pieces by: Larry Levis, Jacques Roubaud, Lorine Niedecker, Gustaf Sobin, Denise Levertov, Elizabeth Spires, William Bronk, Vicente Huidobro, Ingebord Bachmann

For further information and examples of the form, you might peruse the Academy of American Poets site: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poetic-form-cento

erase