National Poetry Month: Writing Wild

Vita Sackville-West, today’s featured author, is remembered by many as the lover of Virginia Woolf. Many more people remember her today because of the world-famous gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, in Kent, England, which she and her husband, Harold Nicolson, created after they bought the run-down property in 1930. Sackville-West was also a prolific poet, essayist, novelist. For many years she wrote “In Your Garden,” a weekly column about gardening that appeared in the Observer.

Because Sackville-West was such a prolific author (she even has her own Twitter feed!), I decided to gather a bouquet of lines and write a cento. I may have broken the rules a bit by changing tenses to help lines fit together. These words are italicized. Most of these lines come from her poem “The Garden” or her gardening columns.

The Art of Gardening

Beneath the snowy mountains of the sky,
we are watching daffodils come up in the orchards:
Evidence of life.
In April, the angel of the months, the young love of the year,
the possibilities are really unlimited.

Soon, the morning glory climbs toward the sun,
a pale blue drift,
some magic in this humbler sphere.
Overblown with roses,
I like generosity wherever I find it.

Like recurrent patterns on a scroll, 
a vast mauve-and-green cobweb, 
quivers with its own lightness and buoyancy.
Wafts of vanilla come to me,
and everywhere bees go racing with the hours,
eternally renewed evidence 
of a determination to live.
As daily life accepts the night’s arrest,
Autumn in felted slippers shuffles on, muted yet fiery
In one defiant flame before they go.

But you, oh gardener, poet that you be though unaware,
now use your seeds like words
and make them lilt with color nicely flung,
always looking forward to doing something better than before.

Previous Writing Wild posts:

Day 1: Dorothy Wordsworth
Day 2: Susan Fenimore Cooper
Day 3: Gene Stratton-Porter
Day 4: Mary Austin

28 thoughts on “National Poetry Month: Writing Wild

  1. Wow, the picture of the gardens – amazing! And I love the poem, Catherine. This: “and everywhere bees go racing with the hours,” and those “felted slippers”. Thanks for your lovely “collected” poem today! Have a wonderful week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wrote my first cento in Georgia Heard’s workshop during March. I used Taylor Mali’s book Late Father. I really this book of his poetry. It’s his most recent. Also I did not know the form at all, and I checked it out online but I still felt like I was “cheating”. Finally I figured out that it was ok. I like the poem I got (even sent it to Taylor Mali whom I know and he liked it). I am not sure how it would work with a different book, but I may try again. I didn’t need to change tenses and I think your way of illuminating that with italics is a good compromise. I did leave one word out of one line. That all said i think your poem gets at the heart of Vita Sackville-West the gardener. The last stanza is something
    But you, oh gardener, poet that you be though unaware,
    now use your seeds like words
    and make them lilt with color nicely flung,
    always looking forward to doing something better than before.

    “always looking forward to doing something better than before.”
    Much to consider and nicely done. Have you done a cento before?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s