Book Review Cento


Book Review Cento: It Changes as the Day Does


Act 1, Scene 1/Enter woman,

With flowers standing on the balcony,

Heard a phoebe this morning—

You are in a beautiful language,

The subtle lilt in your speech,

A sound welling up through the throat,

Some flickers of nonsense remained,

Jewels in joy designed,

With all we’ve been taught to hope for.

A little turbulence just began…

I’m coming to find you

In flight from the land,

Where does the rainbow end,

in your soul or on the horizon?


Last Sunday (4.17.22), the entire New York Times Book Review was devoted to poetry. I created the cento above with lines quoted in various reviews and poems. The issue is a beautifully curated selection of new poetry, plus a few recently re-published older works.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Margaret Simon's blog, Reflections on the Teche.

Cento Sources: The New York Times Book Review (April 17, 2022). Title from Vinegar Hill, by Colm Toibin; 1. Woman, Eat Me Whole, by Ama Asantewa Diaka; 2. “In that life I would have dwelt,” by Yuri Burjak (translated from the Ukrainian by Nikolai Scherbak and Fiona Sampson); 3. Rapture and Melancholy: The Diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay (edited by Daniel Mark Epstein); 4. Best Barbarian, by Roger Reeves; 5. Madness, by Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué; 6. Now Do You Know Where You Are, by Dana Levin; 7. Continuous Creation, by Les Murray; 8. “The Convergence of the Twain—Lines on the Loss of the Titanic,” by Thomas Hardy; 9. Canopy, by Linda Gregerson; 10. Venice, by Ange Mlinko; 11. Cicada, by Phoebe Giannisi (translated from the Greek by Brian Sneeden); 12. Flight and Metamorphosis, by Nelly Sachs (translated from the German by Joshua Weiner with Linda B. Parshall); 13-14. Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda (translated from the Spanish by Sara Lissa Paulson)

Photo: A shout-out to "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, with a fish crow playing the part of the raven.

April Poem


I chose Jessie Redmon Fauset's "Rondeau" for Poetry Friday today. This wonderful spring poem begins,

When April's here and meadows wide 
Once more with spring's sweet growths are pied 
    I close each book, drop each pursuit, 
    And past the brook, no longer mute, 
I joyous roam the countryside.

You can read the rest at the Poetry Foundation.

"Rondeau" was one of my favorite poems in the book Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury Books for Children, 2021). Grimes writes, "It should come as no surprise...that the names of gifted, even prolific women poets of the Harlem Renaissance are little known, especially as compared to their male counterparts." She anthologizes a number of works from that historic period, plus she includes poems of her own inspired by those of Fauset, Anne Spencer, Ida Rowland, and others. It's a gem of a book, beautifully illustrated by contemporary Black women artists.

In her role as literary editor of The Crisis (the official publication of the NAACP), Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961), published Langston Hughes's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," among other important poems. Morgan Jerkins writes in the New Yorker, "though [Fauset] helped to usher in a crucial period of artistic flourishing, and was herself a vital participant in that flourishing, she was not destined to get much credit for it." (Jerkins' fascinating piece can be found here.) I really like Grimes' idea of getting the word out to younger people about the women of the Harlem Renaissance; the rest of us readers benefit, too.

The Poetry Friday roundup for April 14, 2022, is at Matt Forrest Esenwine's blog. See you there!

Fruit Crazy

Wine grapes baja

Go, Go, Grapes! by the late April Pulley Sayre was my pick (ha!) of the week for one of the classes where I volunteer. Subtitled "A Fruit Chant," it's a lot of fun to read aloud: "Rah, rah, raspberries! Go, go, grapes!/Savor the flavors. Find fruity shapes!" Each page has a large photo of delicious-looking fruit, and, as you can tell, the text is really a poem of rhyming couplets.

This particular group, a smaller combined class of K-2 kiddos, shares complements freely. One friend told me, "Nice job, Miss Susan," when I finished reading. The children enjoyed trying to remember all the different kinds mentioned, and I asked them what their favorite fruit was. "Ice cream!" replied another friend. "Oh, ice cream is delicious," I said. "But what about fruit?" After insisting again on ice cream, he eventually admitted to raspberries.

So, a poem of a book for a Friday during National Poetry Month. I recommend it!

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Janice Scully's Salt City Verse on April 8th.

Photo by Tomás Castelazo, from Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.


Go, Go, Grapes! A Fruit Chant

April Pulley Sayre

Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2012


Spring News


First up is a link to UNICEF and its humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. While I've intended to do so for some time, I'm going to make my donation as soon as I finish this post.


I have no smooth transition from that to some good personal news, but I'll go ahead. In the fall, I started submitting a lot of my work, and recently two poems have appeared online. Unlost Journal published my cento "You Keep Me Waiting in a Truck" in #28: Discomfort Index, and "Now or Later," a New York "overheard" poem, found a home at the UK-based Street Cake Magazine. (It's in Part 2 of the current issue.) I was thrilled with both of these acceptances. Street Cake is currently open for submissions, so if you have some poems that lean toward the experimental, why not give it a shot! Same for Unlost, which specializes in found poems, when it reopens.


The Poetry Friday roundup for March 25, 2022, is at Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's blog, The Poem Farm. (How can it be the end of March already?)

Photo by ST. Part of Nancy Blum's glass mosaic "Roaming Underfoot" (2018) at the 28th Street stop of the #6 subway line, Manhattan. Fabricated by Miotto Mosaic Art Studios. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design and New York City Transit.

A Revealing Subway Ride


"The Lovers," by Timothy Liu, is a cool poem that I glimpsed recently as I was leaving the shuttle that runs between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square in New York.

The trains were pretty empty that day, and right after I jumped back onto the shuttle to grab a photo of this work, I noticed a man there taking pictures of a young woman. She was wearing a coat, and underneath it, she was naked from the waist up. Facing the guy, she held the coat wide open as he snapped away. I had stumbled onto, well, I don't know what I'd stumbled onto, but it was a bit more than I expected at 9 a.m.

Anyway. Below I have a picture of some of the art represented with the poem. The original series of mosaics is installed at the subway stop for Lincoln Center. Titled "Artemis, Acrobats, Divas, and Dancers" (2001), it's by Nancy Spero. Both that art and the poetry fall under the auspices of the MTA Arts & Design program, which "encourages the use of public transit in the NYC region by presenting visual & performing arts."

When asked about why he writes, Timothy Liu told the Kenyon Review, "At its best, poetry is a calling, a practice, a guide. It helps me get where I want to be going."



Photos by ST.

The Poetry Friday roundup takes place at Elisabeth Norton's Unexpected Intersections today.

Overheard Conversation & Inspiration

Today a group of writers known as the Poetry Sisters has published poems inspired by overheard conversation; Mary Lee Hahn has the links. Y'all know I love it! Thank you for the shout-outs, Sarah Lewis Holmes, Michelle Kogan, and Carol Varsalona. I'm still working on my own compositions in this particular genre and trying to get them published. Most journals want unpublished work and count blogs as publication, so I haven't been able to post them here. Argh. 

That said, I do have something super fun to share: poet Bernadette Mayer's extensive list of journal ideas ("write once a day in minute detail about one thing") and writing experiments ("Write a work gazing into the mirror without using the pronoun I"). It's housed at the University of Pennsylvania's Electronic Poetry Center. Penn is the home institution of one of my all-time favorite classes, "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry," on Coursera. (It's free. Take it!) Mayer is one of poets whose work we study. In the introduction to a series of essays on the poet, the journal Post45 says, "If the last half century has a poet of daily life of its dreams, babies, children, jokes, meals, sex, love, labors, and writing she is Bernadette Mayer."

Irene Latham has the entire Poetry Friday roundup at Live Your Poem. Photo, ST: Mural by Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada for Street Art Mankind, NYC, 2019.

Mural nyc

TV Room Epigrams


TV Room Epigrams

after Bernadette Mayer

I am the VCR

Unused, undusted,





Over there the Smart TV,

A giant phone, it

Bristles with apps.

Only one in the family

Speaks its language

With fluency.

The other two

congratulate each other

when they arrive at

PBS Passport

in one try.




I am the chair,

Recovered, but

Stained afresh

By blueberries.

Still watching TV,

Appraised at practically


But spared from donation.




Here is the coffee table,

Home to too many books

And half-finished projects,

Hosting winter boots

On the lower level

Where they shed

Their grit





I am the charging station,

Currently charging the air

Or trying to,

Because your cellphone

Is in your purse

And you ignore electricity.


I’ve been reading Bernadette Mayer’s poetry collection Scarlet Tanager (New Directions, 2005), and was tickled by the section “Toy Epigrams.” (No online link is available for the written version, but you can hear her read them at PennSound, the fabulous archive of poets’ recordings.) That was my inspiration to write these “TV Room Epigrams” in the place where I also have my office, such as it is. An icy day and cancelled plans gave me a chance to read and, consequently, write.

The Poetry Friday roundup for January 7th will take place at the blog Beyond LiteracyLink.

Photo by ST. Queens, New York, 2021.

Poem: Mid-December




It’s harder to hear

what everyone is saying

because of the masks

muffling so much

of the usual exchanges,

but a few things

slip through:

“Stay safe,”

“I’ll call you later,”

“Okay, baby, thank you,”

and in Harlem, on 125th Street,

an echo of a man

walking west and singing,

“Alleluia, alleluia.”


I wish I had a turn,

something wise to declare,

to inoculate us against

the feeling of Here

We Go Again—and

everything else—

but all I have is that

unexpected but welcome 

“Alleluia, alleluia.”


© Susan Thomsen, 2021


The Poetry Friday roundup is at Jone Rush MacCulloch's blog.