This month of October—which begins with Dashain in Nepal and ends with Samhain among the Celts, which sees the conclusion of National Hispanic Month and the start of German Heritage Month and includes Indigenous and Italian and Polish Heritage celebrations, as well as the Independence Days of Cyprus and Portugal, Nigeria and Turkey, Turkmenistan and the Grenadines, with the birthday of Ghandi on the 2nd, Lief Erikson Day on the 9th, and Thanksgiving Day in Canada on the 12th–seems a fitting time to encourage JFR blog readers (and everyone) to explore the global vastness of poetry—itself the oldest and most universal genre. I’m also prompted to propose such an exploration because my father called me the other night to ask if I knew anything of the poetry of the Bible and why it didn’t rhyme. Finally, I thought, he’s glad I was an English major and became a poet!
Similarly, in my Native American literature class, I recently introduced students to the basic elements of all good poetry (rhythm, repetition, and imagery)—something I introduce in every literature course I teach—and always there’s a question about the assumed requirement of rhyme, especially for poetry in English.
I’d like to thank Tyler Mills for so graciously inviting me to participate.
Tyler Mills is the author of Tongue Lyre, winner of the 2011 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award (SIU Press 2013). A poet and essayist, her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, The Believer, POETRY, and the Boston Review, and her prose has appeared in the Robert Frost Review and the Writer’s Chronicle. Her poems have received awards from the Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, and Third Coast, and she has been the recipient of work-study scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Vermont Studio Center. A graduate of Bucknell and the University of Maryland (MFA, Poetry), she is Editor-in-Chief of The Account: A Journal of Poetry, Prose, and Thought. She lives in Chicago, where she is currently working toward a PhD in creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago and helps organize the Wit Rabbit reading series.
Project 1 (completed): I recently completed my chapbook Trace (Black Lawrence Press, 2014) and full-length collection Wolf Centos (Sarabande, 2014), both of which are books comprised of centos, a patchwork form that I find to be deeply under-utilized with great potential to engage the lyric-I in a new, and hopefully profound, manner. The recombinant nature of the cento allows for both homage to influences and predecessors while beginning the conversation anew. And just as each line “converses” with its adjacent line, each poem is in conversation with one another. Ultimately elegiac, these particular poems oscillate between transformation and stasis, wildness and domesticity, damage and healing. The “wolf” of these centos becomes a symbol of a threshold, a transformative space, as well as a mode of meditation, or as the wonderful late Larry Levis notes: