SAILING THROUGH THE POETVERSE: A CENTO THAT FLOWS from SAPPHO TO SEUSS / by Linda Eve Diamond

Sailing through the Poetverse is a cento (from the Latin word for a patchwork quilt), also known as a patchwork or collage poem, composed of lines from other poets. While the cento is usually a short form, Sailing through the Poetverse brings together and celebrates a diverse array of poets through time and place. This 100-line poem featuring 99 quoted poets, with Leonard Cohen's voice ringing out twice. (The 100th voice is somewhere in the background, arranging the story, sounds and silences.)

Below the poem, you'll find a recording andthe full list of poets, in order of quotation. Among the poets quoted are Rumi, Sappho, Shakespeare, Maurice Sendak, Pablo Neruda, Jack Kerouac, Frank O'Hara, Tom Waits, Cornelius Eady, Wislawa Szymborska, Matt Rasmussen, Dr. Seuss... 
 

SAILING THROUGH THE POETVERSE  

A 100-Line Cento of 100 Voices

By Linda Eve Diamond

*

You are the moon, dear love, and I the sea:
I know because you are there that I am here.

*

When I am quiet, and solid as the ground then I talk.
What I can promise to be is water.

For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.
We swim on this abstract shore,

a poem in which leaves
climbed the blue staircase up to the sky.

There’s a shoulder where death comes to cry
in its sleepy gardens above the world.

And gravity, scientists say, is weak.
Some complain—

Something about riding boldly into nullity.

*

But why should I lie to you? Let me pull up a chair.

An absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
Darling, do you remember?

I brought you silence.
That was a language.

The silence before I wrote a word.
It is the mirror of heaven and earth.

Listen. Feel the air. It interrupts.
Four winds blowing thro’ the sky

the slink of tides, the absolutes of fog.
The air is wet with sound—

Water music.

*

When bells came like boats

it was still dark. One foot of the sun
lightly stepped a yellow star

down from the shower’d halo.

*

The unwritten poem keeps time

in life after life, in age after age, forever
with up so floating many bells down—

Toppling octaves down to where
words float past

in and out, illuminating
faint iambics that the full breeze wakens

to write a secret verse
for the shooting stars

without knowing why.
Such a secret, yes—

The echo of everything that has ever
become a voice.

This is stuff of Eros, of empathy.

*

Somewhere else entirely

is but the seam of a blacker incoherence
In the same image, at the same time

in the primal sadness
the wind sounded exactly like

terrible swirling of swells        all mingled,
a swollen word wobbling out of sight

for a charm of powerful trouble.
Quick eyes gone under earth’s lid.

Leaves around me falling...

*

But sit and count the chimes.

Wage peace with your listening.
Keep the channel open—

Starting somewhere near the beginning, that edge
and lose, and start again at your beginnings.

Using the outer light, return to insight,
The centuries-old pathos in our voices

soundwassongwas
where struggles spin to filigree.

I will make a ring of it.
True circle of motion.

The offering up, the giving back,
the inhalation and exhalation of all movement.

Grief in the drowning river.
The death of water is the birth of air.

It all rolls into one.
A prism of delight and pain.

But this is Nature’s law, love,
and delicate hesitations, they become

poems, turning them into tiny sails
in the blue intensity of as much

velvet
Time

and set them quietly on
the old star-eaten blanket of the sky,

the past with its rush of velvet, its secret hush
and love itself a metaphor, rose, red.

*

A light wind stirs
into a diadem of noble stars.

Light spiraled over the water.
Sunburst clocks tick

while golden moments flit
keeping time, time, time.

La la la, Oh music swims back to me.
The bright chords of lightening.

*

I wheeled with the stars
and the silence shh shefallying in our endless ear

and round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years.
What a lot of funny things go by

through the hot, pounding rhythm of the waltz
defining a continuous skyline.

The only sound now is a far flapping—
My pulse to your pulse, rhythm and rhyme.

Into a single heartbeat:
The deepest current of love.

*

And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
And soon I’ll be asleep.

*

RECORDING


QUOTED POETS AND POEMS
(in order of quotation):

Ella Wheeler Wilcox Moon and Sea; Thich Nhat Hanh Non-Duality; Rumi untitled; Lucille Clifton further notes to clark; Czeslaw Milosz Account; Elizabeth Robinson Coast; Matt Rasmussen A Poem in which Leaves Figure Prominently; Huichol people Song of an Initiate; Leonard Cohen Take this Waltz; Wislawa Szymborska Plato, or Why; Jane Hirshfield For What Binds Us; Muriel Rukeyser Yes; Anne Carson Autobiography of Red; Cornelius Eady The Poetic Interpretation of the Twist; Naomi Shihab Nye Burning the Old Year; Stanley Kunitz Touch Me; Leonard Cohen Gift; Lorna Dee Cervantes For Virginia Chavez; Billy Collins (Silence); Chuang Tzu Action and Non-Action; William Stafford Poetry; Sarah Teasdale Four Winds; John Burnside Being and Time; Tom Waits Watch Her Disappear; Robert Creeley Water Music; Charles Olson I, Maximus of Gloucester, to You; Elizabeth Bishop A Miracle for Breakfast; Emily Dickinson The Single Hound; Walt Whitman Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking; Lisa Zimmerman The Poem I Didn’t Write; Rabindranath Tagore Unending Love; E. E. Cummings anyone lived in a pretty how town; Roy Fisher The Thing about Joe Sullivan; Lois Beebe Hayna Absence; Marianne Moore The Fish; Edgar Lee Masters Petit, the Poet; Liu Xiaobo One Letter; Sylvia Plath The Bed Book; Simon J. Ortiz Culture and the Universe; Denise Levertov The Secret; W. S. Merwin Utterance; Sappho found in If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Anne Carson; Anne Waldman Attenuate the Loss and Find; Deborah Garrison Please Fire Me; François Jacqmin untitled poem from The Book of Snow; Dinah Hawken The Brain and the Leaf; Susan Prospere Heart of the Matter; Frank O’Hara from an unfinished fragment, published in Standing Still and Walking in New York, Anon. Beowulf; Michael McFee Valentine's Afternoon; William Shakespeare Song of the Witches from MacBeth; Ezra Pound Hugh Selwyn Mauberley; Thomas Hardy The Voice; Dorothy Parker A Well-Worn Story; Judyth Hill Waging Peace; Martha Graham A Letter to Agnes De Mille; Susan Stewart The Forest; Rudyard Kipling If; Lao Tsu Tao Te Ching; Melvin B. Tolson Dark Symphony; Regie Gibson in the year i loved your mother; Dora Malech Treasure Hunting; Federico García Lorca The Little Mute Boy; Joy Harjo Eagle Poem; Kona Macphee The Gift; Amy Bondurant Milton (poem from a lit. journal, title lost);  Michael Gessner Utility; Karen Volkman Create Desire; Robert Hunter  Stella Blue;  Louis MacNeice Entirely; Paul Lawrence Dunbar Night of Love; Howard Nemerov Writing; Gabe Heilig Beat Poets, T’ang Dynasty; J. D. McLatchy The Method; Steven Schnur Universe; Miller Williams The Shrinking Lonesome Sestina; Gary Soto Oranges; T. E. Hulme The Embankment; Jackie Kay Last Love; Carol Ann Duffy Sung; Edwin Markham A Lyric of the Dawn; Maurice Sendak My Brother's Book; Paul Killebrew Sonnet; Liz Lochhead View of Scotland/ Love Poem; George Arnold Beer; Edgar Allan Poe The Bells; Anne Sexton Music Swims Back to Me; Jerry Quickley Hip Hop Hollas; Pablo Neruda Poetry; Jack Kerouac Old Angel Midnight; Henry Vaughan The World; Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish; Ernest Hemingway Lines to a Young Lady on Her Having Very Nearly Winning a Vögel; Yuka Urushibata Skywriting in NYC; Li-Young Lee The City in Which I Love You; Gael Turnbull Keeping and Forgetting Time; Leanne Howe Evidence of Red; John Fox  Elbows;  Percy Bysshe Shelley Love’s Philosophy; Dennis Lee The Coming of the Teddy Bears (That totals 100 lines by 99 voices, Leonard Cohen's twice. You'll find the 100th voice behind the title and arrangement.) 

Most of the poems are available online and most are also in print and/or online (though some are from print journals and limited-run chapbooks). In addition to using poetry collections, chapbooks and journals, some are from songs: Take this Waltz by Leonard Cohen,  Stella Blue by The Grateful Dead & Watch Her Disappear by Tom Waits, video reading: Gift by Leonard Cohen, and Websites: (Academy of American Poets (Poets.org), Poetry Foundation (PoetryFoundation.org), Scottish Poetry Library (ScottishPoetryLibrary.org.uk).

ABOUT THIS QUILT POEM'S PATTERN: No changes to words, line breaks or mid-line punctuation (except for the removal of a lone quotation marks); Occasional changes to initial caps at the beginning of lines and end-line punctuation (and one all-caps word changed to lower case).

PHOTOGRAPH: This cosmic #shelfie shows one of my bookcases, so my poet friends may see their titles among the stars. :) 


I hope you enjoyed Sailing through the Poetverse on The Pig's Wings!   :)