People often ask me where my inspiration for poetry comes from. This is always a difficult question to answer, as inspiration comes from everywhere! However, this poem gives an idea of the sometimes tortuous way that poems can come into being.
It’s a cento, a poem usually made up entirely of lines selected from other poets’ poems. John Ashberry’s ‘The Dong with the Luminous Nose’ is probably one of the best known. In it he links together lines from famous poems by Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Edward Lear, and others into a surprisingly coherent collage. https://nonsenselit.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/john-ashbery-the-dong-with-the-luminous-nose-1998/
My poem below is a self-cento and is made with lines from a variety of my own poems that were started during NaPoWriMo in April 2017 – National Poetry Writing Month, when poets try to write a new poem every day for a month. Remixing and restyling some of my own lines at the end of the month of writing was an interesting experience and I was able to use a few lines that started life during the project, but didn’t end up in finished poems.
Leonora Carrington’s painting Crookey Hall was part of the initial inspiration for the poem.
This poem was first published in Three Drops from a Cauldron in October 2017. https://threedropspoetry.co.uk/2017/10/02/three-drops-from-a-cauldron-issue-20-october-2017/
There’s no time for chocolate
A young woman in a long white dress
runs away from a big grey house
where white water falls in columns
over rocks that shine from
dark corners of her dreams. There’s
talk about a love of the dead, maggots and all,
but she has rescued the black demons
to stop them being lost, or maybe too much alive.
A child is drowning in a pond
but the young woman runs right past.
There’s no time for chocolate, she tells the kid.
If she had taken her hand that day,
if she hadn’t looked away …
but she wasn’t really there at all, of course.
A tall woman stands aside,
points a long arm and giant finger at
grand gothic turrets and gables –
that place of stone and grey customs.
Three ravens guard the entrance
where the woman in the white dress has escaped.
Two naked people stand there,
but they are interested only in themselves.
In one frame of the film of a night
the demon screams, scared –
what if we can’t save the bees?
I painted all the walls purple,
waves crash wild on the shore,
banshees cry across the sound.
Someone asks if we want to fly a kite,
but it’s only me here now.
The tempest passes,
the snow hears the natural sand,
a river runs through the slow heat and
the morning meadow weeps under
cherry blossom and fresh green willow.