National Poetry Month: Writing Wild, Day 24

Here is a happy surprise from this project. Not only have I been introduced to many amazing, thought-provoking writers, I’ve also delved more deeply into the work of writers I had read before but had only skimmed the surface of their work. This is true of Camille T. Dungy. I am in awe of the scope of her writing, of her precise imagery and powerful metaphors.

Kathryn Aalto describes Dungy as a “master of poetic synthesis” who “fuses fact, observation and revelation to offer poetry’s inevitable surprise.” (p. 218) Dungy is a poet, essayist, and professor of writing. She is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient whose writing has won the American Book Award. She states that she is  “never not thinking about nature. Because I don’t understand a way we can be honest about who we are without understanding that we are nature.” (Aalto, p. 218) 

When asked by Aalto what she wants “people to get out of her poems” Dungy explained to that she wants them to find “beauty and the heightened craft that comes from looking at everyday objects with respect.” (p. 223)

I had several false starts finding a way to respond to Dungy’s stunning poetry and essays. In the end, I let Dungy’s words speak for themselves in this cento.

Silence is one part of speech
the impossible hope of the firefly
imperceptible as air.

You are not required to understand.

This is the world we have
a complicated beauty.

The snow 
builds a mountain
unto itself.

What happens today is fed by what I did yesterday.
I will plant my seeds 
plant them for abundance tomorrow
a demonstration of care
evidence of the wild wonder of the world

and into the world: music. 
The song is drink, is color. Come. Now. Taste. 

After which, nothing was ever the same.

Cento line sources in order:

Characteristics of Life
There are these moments of permission
Arthritis is one thing, the hurting another
Daisy Cutter
In her mostly white town, an hour from Rocky Mountain National Park, a black poet considers centuries of protests against racialized violence
Letter to America: Diversity, a Garden Allegory with Suggestions for Direct Action
Letter to America: Diversity, a Garden Allegory with Suggestions for Direct Action
“What To Eat, And What To Drink, And What To Leave For Poison”
“Trophic Cascade”

Previous Writing Wild posts:

Day 1: Dorothy Wordsworth
Day 2: Susan Fenimore Cooper
Day 3: Gene Stratton-Porter
Day 4: Mary Austin
Day 5: Vita Sackville-West
Day 6: Nan Shepherd
Day 7: Rachel Carson
Day 8: Mary Oliver
Day 9: Carolyn Merchant
Day 10: Annie Dillard
Day 11: Gretel Ehrlich
Day 12: Leslie Marmon Silko
Day 13: Diane Ackerman
Day 14: Robin Wall Kimmerer
Day 15: Lauret Savoy
Day 16: Rebecca Solnit
Day 17: Kathleen Jamie
Day 18: Carolyn Finney
Day 19: Helen Macdonald
Day 20: Saci Lloyd
Day 21: Andrea Wulf
Day 22: Padma Venkatraman

7 thoughts on “National Poetry Month: Writing Wild, Day 24

  1. This – “What happens today is fed by what I did yesterday.”, strikes me as something we all need to realize. You’ve given her voice to us in your poem, Catherine. It is lovely! I know of her because she lives in Colorado & I’ve seen displays of her work, but never picked up a book. Now I have one more for my growing list. Thank you! Enjoy your Saturday!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I only just learned about the cento form in Georgia Heard’s workshop last month. I wrote one that I liked. But I LOVE yours. It is beautiful and powerful. It and what you wrote about Camille T. Dungy makes me eager to learn more about her and her work and writing. Thanks, Catherine.
    Janet Clare F.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your cento is breathtaking, such an amazing weaving of words. Another one I want to print and keep close. I learned about Camille from poem a day and explored one of her poems with my students.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] Day 1: Dorothy WordsworthDay 2: Susan Fenimore CooperDay 3: Gene Stratton-PorterDay 4: Mary AustinDay 5: Vita Sackville-WestDay 6: Nan ShepherdDay 7: Rachel CarsonDay 8: Mary OliverDay 9: Carolyn MerchantDay 10: Annie DillardDay 11: Gretel EhrlichDay 12: Leslie Marmon SilkoDay 13: Diane AckermanDay 14: Robin Wall KimmererDay 15: Lauret SavoyDay 16: Rebecca SolnitDay 17: Kathleen JamieDay 18: Carolyn FinneyDay 19: Helen MacdonaldDay 20: Saci LloydDay 21: Andrea WulfDay 22: Padma VenkatramanDay 2: Camille T. Dungy […]


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