Conflicts (A Cento)

Some things can surprise you in both directions.
strong forces, weak forces
are like salted plums in a jar.
I’m looking for courage, for some evidence
that we aren’t always just hurt.
You’ve heard me, scornful, harsh, and discontented
What are you to me? I’d tear you with my teeth!
There is always something to be made of pain.
I don’t see anything objectively.
Staying was my way of hitting back.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow.


The sources for each line (numbered) are as below:

1.     Jane Hirshfield, Husband
2.     Jane Hirshfield, For What Binds Us
3.     Jane Hirshfield, All The Difficult Hours asnd Minutes
4.     Louise Gluck, Matins
5.     Kay Ryan, Insult
6.     Siegfried Sassoon, The Poet as Hero
7.     Li-Young Lee, Always A Rose
8.     Louise Gluck, Love Poem
9.     Louise Gluck, The Untrustworthy Speaker
10.   Louise Gluck, Dead End
11.   Louise Gluck, Vespers [In your extended absence, you permit me]

(JH, LYL, LG,KR are my favorite poets. I could read them all day.)

I wrote a cento for the class I just took. Since I’m in a sharing mood, I thought, “Why not?” According to, “From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets. Though poets often borrow lines from other writers and mix them in with their own, a true cento is composed entirely of lines from other sources.” In other words, I didn’t write anything. I just “borrowed” lines from others’ poems and stitch together with the hope that a poem will be created at the end. It was a fun exercise for me. Poetry to me is a sort of meditation. It puts me in a focused meditative state. I can forget about everything when I am contemplating a word or an idea. I can forget about  stress, frustrations, conflicts and yes, even sadness although I write about all of these in my poems. Reading poems inspires me to write more poems. Just like Billy Collins wrote, “The trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry.”  As for my cento, at first I thought the end result was rubbish. But then, the instructor emailed this note to me, “Aye, I just wanted to say that I thought your cento was excellent. We talked about it briefly in class Tuesday and the others agreed. It came together really nicely!” I later talked to a few people from class who all liked it and told me, “It was bleak,” which is what I do. Bleak. Writing bleak things gives me an outlet from feeling bleak. It sorta makes sense, at least to me.

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