Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was inspired by James Schuyler and involves using concrete details to write about one particular place. I really like poems that rely on specific nouns and cultural references. “Homage to Sharon Stone” by Lynn Emanuel is one of my favorite examples of this type of writing. I am so curious to read the poems that emerged from this prompt. If you have written one, please share!
My poem for the day attempts to address a different prompt, created by the teenage daughter of one of my best friends and favorite writing partners. T (her daughter) actually gave us this assignment on Monday, and I just finished it, which suggests I may not be the ideal candidate for homeschooling. In my defense, I initially found the assignment to be slightly off-putting since it required us to write a piece that must include the words ooze, palpable, chicken. I immediately came up with the phrase “the palpable ooze of chicken” and then required a palate cleanser of immense proportions. Thanks, Elisa Gabbert for introducing me to negronis in 2009. I would not have survived this assignment without them. If reading about T’s prompt has put a bad taste in your mouth, you might also need a negroni. Don’t know the recipe? Watch this video of Geoffrey Zakarian making one during his self-quarantine.
Anyway, I accepted this writing assignment from T and then, for no good reason, decided to make it more difficult by using her required words in a cento. If you know me in real life, then you already know how much I seem to enjoy complicating an already complicated task. Make it harder, that’s what I always say (to myself and literally no one else). I had planned to inventory my fridge and pantry this afternoon so I could make a meal plan and limit our outside interactions to one local grocery shop every ten days, but instead I spent about four hours reading poems on the Poetry Foundation website. A search for the word chicken returned 317 poems, in case you were wondering. But I also had to do a separate search for poems containing the word palpable (197 results). Fortunately, the word ooze just turned up organically, as it does.
Like an erasure, a cento requires you to use source texts, and I have listed the ones I used to write “Shell, Cage, Bone” at the end of the post. (A lot of them use the word chicken in the title, a fact that may surprise only myself. Before today, my knowledge of poems that contain the word chicken consisted of “The Red Wheelbarrow” and nothing else.) I encourage you read these poems; a cento is designed to introduce you to the work of many different writers.
In addition, if you live or are quarantined with children and teens, I encourage you to encourage them to 1) participate in National/Global Poetry Writing Month or 2) write a cento of their own. The second option should occupy them for 1 to 5 hours!
You can read my “ooze, palpable, chicken” cento below. I hope T likes it. She has already given us a new assignment, so I am behind on my homework again (required words: emphasis, sunflower, scissors). Why am I doing homework assigned by other people’s children? Is this going to become a trend? What madness has social distancing wrought?
Source texts (in order used):
- “Invention” by Tina Chang
- “Dear, beloved” by Sumita Chakraborty
- “The Demon” by Jennifer Firestone
- “Passing a Truck Full of Chickens at Night on Highway Eighty” by Jane Mead
- “Moonlight: Chickens on the Road” by Robert Wrigley
- “Women Whose Lives are Food, Men Whose Lives are Money” by Joyce Carol Oates
- “Dreaming Pancho Villa” by Carl Marcum
- “to the sea” by Aracelis Girmay
- “Home, a transitive” by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa
- [I pinch myself hard on the inner arm] by Susan Hampton
- “The Happy” by Ari Banias
- “Nighttrains” by Jayne Cortez
- “The Answering Machine” by Linda Pastan
- “Duende” by Catherine Bowman
- “Nuggets” by Alan Gillis
- “Birthplace with Buried Stones” by Meena Alexander
- “Loony Bin Basketball” by Mary Karr
- “No Encore” by Betty Adcock
- “The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass
- “The Waste Carpet” by William Matthews
- “Almost Nowhere in the World, as Far as Anybody Can Tell” by Dick Allen
- “Oedipal Strivings” by Frederick Seidel
- “The Leaf Pile” by Alicia Ostriker
- “I Am the Only Being Whose Doom” by Emily Brontë
- “Moment” by Carol L. Gloor
- “Prairie Chickens” by Leo C. Turner
- “Intensive Care Unit” by Adrien Stoutenburg
- “Want” by Joan Larkin
- “RIOT” by Gwendolyn Brooks
- “To an Ungentle Critic” by Robert Graves
- “Self-Help” by Bruce Covey
- “Eating Fried Chicken” by Linh Dinh
- “Feasting” by Joseph O. Legaspi
- “Moon Grass Rain” by Fady Joudah
- “Millennium, Six Songs” by Marilyn Chin
- “Death Gets into the Suburbs” by Michelle Boisseau
- “Chickens the Weasel Killed” by William E. Stafford
- “White-Eyes” by Mary Oliver
- “Skin Canoes” by Carolyn Forché