So here’s a little game for you, should you choose to accept it. (I’m guessing at least one or two of you might.) And it’s a contest.
It’s a popular technique these days to write poems which are inspired by fragments of poetry written by other people. The idea is to build your own new poem around something you’ve seized upon, but to italicize the text you’ve borrowed so that it stands out from your own words.
I’ve done this below with some fragments of Sappho. (The snippets I’ve chosen are italicized.)
Here’s your challenge: You pick a poem, any poem, which has some words in it you like. Then let your ideas grow around those pieces of verse into something else which is your own entirely. Write in any form or style. (The piece I’ve included below is a prose-poem.) Then post your new poem into the comments section of this blog post.
I recognize writing a poem like this can take a while, so the contest will be open until the end of this month, midnight central time on the evening of March 31st. Depending on how many entries there are, there may even be a readers’ choice run-off for the best poem. The winner will win a lovely book — which book, I haven’t decided yet, because I’d like the prize to be tailored to fit the winning entry in some way.
Here’s an example for you, a prose-poem I wrote entitled (coincidentally) “Sappho’s Torque.” (And yes, the poem was written before I began this blog.) If you don’t know any other poems that you’d want to borrow text from, feel free to take the Sapphic snippets from mine here (or any other fragment of this poem, should you so desire). Regardless of which poem you borrow from, be sure to acknowledge where your italicized stuff came from.
I’m looking forward to reading your entries! Happy writing.
“It is too much to bear,” she said, “this weighing upon my mind.”
The roses in the garden burst in full floribundance, infusing the air with decadence and coloring the day and even the night with their velvet flesh. “Beauty is as beauty does,” they told her, and she thought then that the garden must be the locus of outrageous fortune, a siren’s lair filled with killing thorns, slings and arrows. So it is thus, she knew, that she first came to love the very idea of love, so often the gift of the image of a demi-god, tempered by the grotesquerie of real life.
“I am tired,” he intimates, while she relents for the love of him.
Eros, she thinks, melter of limbs, you who imprison me now again, are the sweetbitter unmanageable creature who steals in, who ignites my dependence and fuels it with my passion; you burn me.
She thinks that birds will fall into sea, that worms will climb the walls of the house, that lizards will come into the kitchen looking for food. And only she will be awake to notice.