A Poem for #TheSealeyChallenge
July 28, 2022
Cento: Dear River Dear Creek Dear Damned
To answer your question, yes
My people are the people
Por el East River y el Bronx
My empire made me
Look out, but don’t mistake it for forward
When the ocean comes to harvest
The green drapery is like a sheet of water
In the afternoon I see myself at night
This is my box of twilight and inside
No one knew or at least
It is possible to rest here
The cicadas are so loud and large
Each sun sinks itself
Wears white & turns
Dawn again. And this is what we wake to
The sky black with swans—
Okay fuck it, I’m on one.
This is a cento of first lines from poems I read during #TheSealeyChallenge in 2020 and 2021. In a couple of cases, I changed the verb numbers to agree with the nouns. For the challenge, which was started by the poet Nicole Sealey, you read a collection of poetry a day for the month of August. I've done it a couple of years, and it's super fun. Starting August 1st, follow the hashtag #TheSealeyChallenge on social media, and get all kinds of great reading suggestions. More information here.
The Poetry Friday roundup for July 29 takes place at the blog of Marcie Flinchum Atkins. She's all about #TheSealeyChallenge, too!
Sources for the cento
Title: Kelly, Donika. “Hymn.” The Renunciations, Graywolf, 2021, p. 47.
Line 1. Choi, Franny. “Afterlife.” Soft Science, Alice James, 2019, p. 20.
- Wilkinson, Caki. “Obstinate Gospel.” The Survival Expo, Persea, 2021, p. 49.
- García Lorca, Federico. “Oda a Walt Whitman.” Poeta en Nueva York. 1940. La Moderna, 2018, p. 143.
- Akbar, Kaveh. “My Empire.” Pilgrim Bell, Graywolf, 2021, p. 24.
- Hunt, Erica. “Instructions for the next chapter.” Jump the Clock: New & Selected Poems, Nightboat, 2020, p. 183.
- Francisco, Ariel. “Harvest Moon—The Tide Rises Almost to My Door.” A Sinking Ship Is Still a Ship, Burrow Press, 2020, p. 37.
- Trethewey, Natasha. “Mana Prieto.” Thrall. 2012. Mariner, 2015, p. 37.
- Blanco, Richard. “Sitting on My Mother’s Porch in Westchester, Florida.” Looking for the Gulf Motel, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012, p. 27.
- Salazar, C.T. “American Cavewall Sonnet [This is my box of twilight and inside].” American Cavewall Sonnets, Bull City, 2021, p. 5.
- Gay, Ross. “ode to buttoning and unbuttoning my shirt.” Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015, p. 7.
- Young, Al. “Poetry.” Geography of the Near Past, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976, p. 71.
- VanderHart, Hannah. “Locusts or Complaint as Protest.” What Pecan Light, Bull City, 2021, p. 32.
- Nezhukumatathil, Aimee. “Bengal Tiger.” Oceanic, Copper Canyon, 2018, p. 67.
- Harvey, Yona. “Even Disasters.” Hemming the Water, Four Way, 2013, p. 35.
- Murillo, John. “On Prosody.” Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, Four Way, 2020, p. 67.
- Nguyen, Diana Khoi. “The Birdhouse in the Jungle.” Ghost of, Omnidawn, 2018, p. 41.
- Ginsberg, Aeon. [“Okay fuck it, I’m On One”]. Greyhound, Noemi, 2020, p. 21.
Photo by ST.
I've seen centos posted but didn't get that it was part of the challenge. Now I know and I am intrigued and think it's a good opportunity to read more collections of poetry. Thank you. You've provided a great list! I enjoyed your cento!
Posted by: janice scully | July 28, 2022 at 05:20 PM
Hi, Janice! Thank you. The cento is not part of the challenge; I just did it for fun. I hope you'll post about the books you read. I'm always casting around for recommendations.
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | July 28, 2022 at 06:57 PM
I can't help but chuckle at the end of the poem. That's kind of how I am feeling these days. I don't want to admit it, though. I also love this stanza: "Each sun sinks itself
Wears white & turns" and how it enjambs on "dawns again." What a wonderful way to synthesize the poems you read.
Posted by: Margaret Simon | July 29, 2022 at 08:05 AM
I love the twist at the end -- this is really rich and fantastic and inspires the reading of these poems for sure!
Posted by: Liz Garton Scanlon | July 29, 2022 at 08:14 AM
Margaret and Liz, thanks for dropping by! I just loved reading all those books last summer. This year, for various reasons, I've had many of those "f-it" kinds of days, and so Aeon Ginsburg's lines (the last in the poem here) was really appealing to me.
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | July 29, 2022 at 02:05 PM
What a cool thing to do with some of the poems you read last year! I'm so glad you've done The Sealey Challenge before! So cool!
Posted by: Marcie Flinchum Atkins | July 29, 2022 at 08:12 PM
Hi, Marcie! Thanks. Last year on Twitter I posted about the books I read every day, but I think I'll shake it up this year and do something different. I have two days to figure out what!
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | July 29, 2022 at 08:42 PM
Beautiful imagery that you connected to the photo. I'm so intrigued by the line "The green drapery is like a sheet of water" -- I want to reverse the simile after gazing at the photo, but it so uniquely turns in this poem!
Posted by: PATRICIA J FRANZ | July 29, 2022 at 08:56 PM
Thank you, Patricia! Your comment is so interesting as I hadn't even connected the green drapery to the photo; I'd been looking for a pic that had a creek/river. Poems are always a collaboration between the writer(s) and the reader, and your observation highlights that! I can see how the reverse metaphor would work.
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | July 30, 2022 at 11:19 AM
Susan, this centro is so beautifully created. The photo blends beautifully with the lines. I can imagine that this piece really made you puzzle this poem together.
Posted by: Carol Varsalona | July 30, 2022 at 02:45 PM
Hi, Carol. I appreciate your kind words! I took the photo in the early spring at Greenwich (CT) Audubon Center. The greens were really vibrant back then. I enjoy looking for just the right picture for a poem.
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | July 30, 2022 at 04:22 PM
OOOOH. I LOVE the idea of writing a cento out of poems read during the Sealey Challenge. (Which, btw, I'd never heard of until recently, but I'm going to try it this year.) This is fantastic. Thank you, Susan. You're a constant source of fresh ideas and inspiration!
Posted by: Laura Purdie Salas | July 31, 2022 at 08:46 AM
Aw, Laura, thanks for your kind words! I really enjoy the Sealey Challenge and the online enthusiasm for talking about poetry during August. Yesterday I did a big library run in a neighboring town that has a substantial poetry collection, so I can't wait to arrange my books for the week.
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | July 31, 2022 at 10:43 AM
Susan, I love your list of books and as well the way you layered these lines, each one leading to the next but leaving it to do its own work. Gorgeous. I failed miserably at the challenge last year so I'm not going to participate "officially" this year, as much as I encourage others!
Posted by: Heidi Mordhorst | July 31, 2022 at 12:33 PM
Heidi, hello! Thanks for dropping by and for your encouragement. I have my first seven books ready to go for the challenge, and I'd be happy re-reading the ones from the cento above, too. I try to start each morning with reading in August, even if I have to get up a little early!
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | July 31, 2022 at 01:54 PM
I like your cento and I love the title, and this part to:
"Each sun sinks itself
Wears white & turns
I was getting ready to release my husband from bondage–isolating the past 2 weeks due to covid, when he tested positive today due to rebound we believe like Biden's. Your poem spoke to my state of mind… Thanks Susan, and good luck with the challenge!
Posted by: Michelle Kogan | July 31, 2022 at 04:37 PM
Thanks so much, Michelle! The same happened to me with Covid. Ugh! My sympathies.
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | August 01, 2022 at 09:18 AM