Nothing is So Beautiful As Spring – A Cento

Photo Courtesy of Federico Stevanin

So apparently, I’m working through a poetry phase.  I haven’t really explored my poetic side since high school, which was honestly a time in my life when I believed all good poetry had to rhyme.  It’s crazy how time (and great mentors) can change what you thought was a steadfast belief.  Poetry does not have to rhyme.  In fact, it doesn’t even have to make any sense.  It just has to find a way to let you connect.  It has to make you think.  And it always finds a way to make you feel.

What I love most about poetry is the way a few words, strung together in a well chosen pattern, can sit with you, sometimes even change you.  One of my favorite styles of poetry celebrates this idea – then pushes it further. A cento is a verse composition made up of lines selected from the great works of the past. It takes the funny, heartbreaking, breathtaking and often long-lasting emotions from each of your favorite works and pieces them together to form a new story and a new feeling.  I found “Nothing is So Beautiful as Spring” a few days ago while sifting through old pieces from grad school.  I wrote this in an inspiring Spiritual Poetry class that focused on the works of some of my favorite poets – Gerard Manley Hopkins, Anne Sexton, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and W.B. Yeats.

I sought him, but could not find him,
I called him, but he gave me no answer.
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit. 
My first vision of light-
A broken altar, a heart alone
Both saved and lost.
I heard a call:  How deep, how ordinary.
It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
If only I let it bear me, carry me
If only it carry me!
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
“It’s okay,” I say to myself,
To search myself,
Because I know I shall not know
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
And nightly under the simple stars,
Footfalls echo in the memory.
Ordinary lives continue.
I ask for grace, 
Things fall apart. 
There is something at work in my soul,
Which I do not understand. 
Line References:         
             1-2.  Song of Solomon
            3.  George Herbert, “Prayer (I)”
            4.  T.S Eliot, “The Waste Land”
            5.  William Blake, “To Thomas Butts”
            6.  George Herbert, “The Altar”
            7.  Anne Sexton, “The Fallen Angels”
            8.  Soan, Zen Poet
            9.  Henry Vaughan, “World of Light”
           10.  Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Hurrahing in Harvest”
           11-12.  D.H. Lawrence, “Song of a Man Who Has Gone Through”
           13.  Denise Levertov, “Annunciation”
           14.   Anne Sexton, “The Rowing Endeth”
           15.  George Herbert, “Vanity of Spirit”
           16.  T.S. Eliot, “Ash Wednesday”
           17.  William Wordsworth, “Ode:  Intimations on Mortality”
           18.  Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”
           19.  T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”
           20.  Denise Levertov, “Annunciation”
           21.  Edward Dowden, “The Initiation”
           22.  W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”
           23-24.  Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Letter II)

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