The Apostrophe Blog
My poem, “Lamentation: A Cento,” has been accepted for publication in the fourteenth issue of The Poeming Pigeon due to be published in Fall 2024. This is one of forty-seven centos that make up my unpublished book manuscript, I Am Speechless: A Book of Centos. It is also included in my manuscript, Brief Campaigns of Sting and Sweet, currently making the rounds of assorted poetry book contests.
What is a cento? It’s a form of found poetry made up of quotations from other works. This particular cento was created from the first lines of poems written by the Nobel Prize winners in Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness, edited by Carolyn Forché. Its twelve lines are by the following poets, many in translation: Wisława Szymborska; George Seferis; Eugenio Montale; Günter Grass; Saint-John Perse; Wole Soyinka; Boris Pasternack; Jaroslav Siefert; Nelly Sachs; Czesław Miłosz; Salvatore Quasimodo; and Joseph Brodsky.
This poem’s epigraph—of the Before Times—is, to my mind, a nod to the way we counted on life and time to work before the devastating emptiness and unimaginable fatalities from the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking at the poem again now, particularly these lines from poems by Boris Pasternack and Jaroslav Siefert—“Again the shells were falling; / a hundred houses were in ruins”—I can see that this poem might also be about the relentless currents of violence that shudder in too many corners of the world right now—Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, to name but three.
This public domain photograph above is a view of the village of Boiry-Becquerelle in northern France that was destroyed by the Germans in 1917.