First in a New Cento Series: Seven Deadly Sinners

I’ve been reading the early Church fathers quite a bit for some of the graduate classes I’m taking. Last night, I found myself greatly enjoying one particular book and I thought “some of these lines would make a great cento.” I decided to take seven of the Church Fathers, write a Cento for each based solely on one of their works and fit them into the seven deadly sins schema. *G* Here is the first. Kudos if you can not only tell me who it is, but what work this is from:

 Lust

I came to Carthage
and all around me hissed
a cauldron with illicit loves.
Clouds of muddy concupiscence
filled the air.
The soul fornicates.

I rushed head long into love
by which I was longing to be captured.
I was glad to be in bondage,
tied with troublesome chains.
I loved to suffer
and sought out occasions
for such suffering.

I pursued a sacrilegious quest for knowledge,
which led me down to faithless depths
and the fraudulent service of devils.

How I burned, how I burned
with a longing to leave earthly things
and fly back to you.
My error was my God.

Who am I?

(from lines: 3.1,2.2, 2.14, 3.1,3.4,3.5,3.8,4.12)

A Cento for December 2016

Hiding my face I fled,
and the grey wind hissed behind me.

He revealed His mysteries,
so the dreamer went blushing into battle and died.

So many winged creatures
sculpted out of flight to peer from a ledge

wine is spilled on promiscuous lips

tiny dried up men speaking pure light

Do not go gentle.
Do NOT go gentle.

I will not die like the shadows of those mountains,
who are cast down by the body of the nighttime sky.
I will not die…
Dark is better for devotion.

I collect small things.
Within my bones and atriums
I can hold your pieces.
The lance of my eyes is unsheathed.
Terror has rent the fabric of the sky.
I am at the mouth of the cave. I am willing to crawl,
from death to resurrection.

Immortality exists under the World Tree, where three roots pierce the ages…
The clock will always strike midnight and history repeats.

From the thunder and the storm,
I alone tread the red circle.
I celebrate our old eternal custom,
our purifying rites.
I won’t run off.

My thoughts have a spirit’s wings,
my memories a desert wind;

Down on your knees, Achilles,
a fresh grief will flood your heart.

[With respect to Alice Oswald, Ada Limon, Mina Loy, Amy Lowell, Cynthia Manick, Marianne Boruch, Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Marilyn Hacker, January Gill O”Neil, Euripedes, Etheridge Knight, Dylan Thomas, cairo mcflarlane, Andal translated by Ravi Shankar, Edgar allen Poe, Christopher Logue].

Cento by G. Krasskova 

Word Wars

I devour words.
I hear through my eyes
and see through my ears
and crunch syntaxes
between my teeth.
.
.
I pillage entire centuries
for lost linguistic treasures,
artifacts, one-offs, hapax legomena,
then covetous,
I secret them away,
a dragon with her hoard.
I lock them all up
in the memory hall of my mind.
.
.
I hoard words
            random etymologies
                        fleeting morphologies
 .
this ology
                        that ology
 .
Mine.
Mine.
Mine.
 .
Distraught bits of grammar,
once so secure in their purpose,
I pluck from their places,
and they find no solace
in the hungry maw of my mind.
 .
I devour them all,
only to spew them forth again,
maybe, if luck sits on my tongue,
and the Gods of language have kissed my lips
recently:
transformed.
 .
Words should fear me.
I shall continue better than I’ve begun.
I shall hunt them down;
tease them apart –
my pencil is a spear,
its lead like iron.
This is war after all
and the words are winning.

(by G. Krasskova)

Word Hunger

On my other blog I’ve been sharing some of my poetry. Writing poetry is like being filled with fire. It forces its way out and once I begin I often find myself driven until it is done and then wired for hours later. It’s a very particularly type of inspiration and one of the many ways of connecting with my God (Odin).

Lately, I’ve been exploring two new poetic forms: the cento and word sonnets. The first is architectural in its structure. A Cento is a poem where each line is actually taken from another poet’s work. The first centos can be found in antiquity and the style has continued up to this day. It’s an odd synergy: the power of the poem is about the line and structure and flow itself, but each line is a window, a word knot that conjures that which it was taken from too, so it can get very complex. Word poems are sonnets (14 line poems with a particular rhyming scheme) that instead of lines and rhymes form a sonnet out of 14 words, with each word comprising an entire line. They’re more difficult than they seem! It’s almost like painting. You get a few strategically chosen brush strokes and it’s done. You have 14 words to paint a scene, 14 words with which to cast your shadow on the page.

All of this got me to thinking of when I first became aware of language and words and poetry. I actually remember it distinctly, or rather I remember three separate instances.

When I was three or four, having just learned to read, my mother went to visit a friend with me in tow. Wanting to keep me occupied and out of her hair, the friend plopped me down with a children’s encyclopedia set. One volume had Harold Monro’s ‘Overheard on a Saltmarsh” with this illustration.

nymphsandleves

I’m not sure why it captivated me so. Maybe it was just that it conjured a completely different world, that it smelled of magic and the outré, that it spun out like the doorway to some hidden faerie kingdom. I don’t know. I just know I wanted to devour it, to crawl inside the pages and be in that place, smelling the salty air, hearing the night sounds of frogs and insects, and seeing the greenish silver light of the moon overhead. I vaguely remember copying it out in my horrid script (it took me awhile to gain the motor coordination to write well. I was a clumsy child.) on a scrap of paper and then I never saw the poem again until I was an adult. There was no internet by which to look it up and my bio-mother wasn’t a book-lover and never thought to track it down despite my obsession with it.

Then when I was five I was playing after school at my grandmother’s and some magazine she had contained an ad (probably for a travel agency though I really can’t remember) that had the St. Basil’s Church in Moscow, with its colorful turrets and a snippet of writing in Russian. I cut it out and saved it and kept that for over fifteen years, until I learned to read Russian and figured out what it said. I was fascinated by the Cyrillic characters and the world I imagined they contained.

saint-basils-cathedral2

Finally I remember my first engagement with fiction. I must have been likewise four or five, maybe younger. My aunt told me the story of the “Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe. She told it so well and so vividly that I was disappointed when I read the original years later! I began writing poetry shortly thereafter.

telltaleheart-title

The first thing I actually remember writing was for a contest at school. We had to make little books of folded, stapled paper and could write anything we wanted. I wrote poems, including one about a boat. (I don’t remember them and don’t have them anymore, but my mother and aunt talked about them every so often growing up and my aunt was pestering me about the boat poem just this year. She was pissed I didn’t remember it). The librarian chided me saying I would have won first place if my handwriting were neater and going on about how sloppy it was. I remember throwing my little book, painstakingly hand written and colored away like so much trash.

white-sail-boat-offshore-on-blue-sea-aerial-view-4k_ed2lncc5e__S0000

Then in third grade, we were told we could write certain kinds of poems. It’s the first poem I actually recall. We were given simple examples and following those I came up with this:

I can’t see the sun,
That big round ball of fire,
Which the cat of the clouds
Gently rolls around
Then bounces it up higher.

I was eight. My teacher was not impressed. I was asked if I really meant that I could see the sun. I remember just looking at her as though she were out of her mind.

In high school, I got my wish and finally was able to study Russian. I’ve forgotten much of it now in the press of other languages (Latin, ancient Greek, German…) but I still remember how entranced I was once with that language. It was long ago in a very different world, a ghost of myself not yet marrow-ripe poured over those exotic letters and sucked and swallowed phonemes looking for enchantment. I found it too.

I kept writing poetry. My sophomore English teacher would hand them out to other classes, analyzing them. He was often wrong about the meaning of my words. Still, it was encouragement to keep writing.

Unfortunately I high school I went through a period of rhyming things. The best advice I ever got was from another student. We’d share our writing and talk and critique, discuss philosophy and such. Finally, exasperated at yet another gurgling flood of rhyme he snapped, “poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.” It was a revelation. Then I discovered poets like Auden, Ntozake Shange, ee.cummings, T.S. Eliot, a number of Russian poets, and of course being in high school, Sylvia Plath. I never looked back. Poetry became and remains one of the ways I process my world, and certainly one of the primary ways I build roads to my Gods and back again. It is the ultimate rainbow bridge, dripping with venom, sweeter than honey, ridden with white phosphorus that will sear away the boundaries of the soul.

I’ll end with another word sonnet.

Poetry
Is
White
Phosphorous
searing
away
the
Unreal.
It
Renders
marrowful
Mind
Spirit
Burning.

elements_of_a_rose__fire_by_dieden2_small