Two Poems from The Exquisite Cento Project

The Exquisite Cento Project is a collaborative writing project in which two poets work with predetermined source material and the ‘exquisite corpse’ poetic technique of composing a poem with each participant writing alternating lines without being able to see the poem’s previous lines. The combination of the two poetic techniques gives us the project’s name and creates unexpected juxtapositions and serendipitous fluidity, often unearthing a poetic dialogue within the unconscious collaboration of poets

The poems either use the project’s standard template of selecting lines from a predetermined source of two poets and the script for a movie, or are more freeform and include more varied sources including popular songs, movie reviews, only poets and many others. While some lines were omitted from the final results, aside from capitalization and punctuation, no lines were altered from their sources.

[2019] Poem 5: Only lines from Pablo Neruda, Rae Armantrout & the Script for Tremors 

Creation looked like this:
             wearing a sweat-stained fedora
                        pigeons bathe in technicolor
                                    between the flagstones.
             The sea fills its cellar with footfalls,
but lately I ain’t so much as seen a gopher.
             The pallid woman with black hair
                        of harrowing petals
             and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight.

The hump jerks higher—
                        the charging creatures are almost underfoot
             He tries not to look down.

                                    More humps rise and fall
                                    and we’re all populists.

Because silence has a right to the beauty
            you have moon-lines, apple-pathways.

                        The creature gently rustles the earth

I wish the love and dignity of bees for your hands
            quick, before you die

                                    There’s a long, grim silence  
            it’s a volcano of gory creature parts
                        as a world might create and undo itself

            numerous spurts of dust 

gesturing with the bomb, she understands.
resolutely grinding along not far from the cliffs
                        like a grieving arrow

                                                                         Is it them?
                                     The bastards are up to something



Summer Poem 2: Only lines from Marianne Moore, Robert Bly, & the Script for Mean Girls [or Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want]

In a parenthesis of wit
we came to lose our leaves like trees—

fragments of sin are a part of me
freezing at dawn in the desert.

*

You must stay a baby forever,
as wild spontaneous fruit was
in the windows of trucking services.

Girls walking in slo-mo.

I started talking in this weird high voice:
“You’re plastic! Solid, durable, molded plastic.”

The guinea hens rose
your eyes, flowers of ice and snow—
complete chaos has ensued

*

Those shoes will get you pregnant
(she throws them like confetti).

I couldn’t remember how I normally walk
(it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing)
and blew his head off with a shotgun.

Naked feet covered with jewels.

*

New brooms shall sweep clean the heart of me
like a cloud forming inside a transparent stone.

A kind of prophet
sits netted among the stars, looking down—
this solitude covered with iron.

Are we still in a fight?

Outside maple leaves floated on rainwater 
in a parenthesis of wit.

Andrew Gibson studied creative writing at North Carolina Central University. This is his first publication.

Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer and photographer living in San Diego. His writing has recently appeared in Meridian, The Southern Review, Louisville Review, Fence, Rosebud, Atlanta Review, Texas Review, and Fjords Review, among others. He publishes the writing blog Notebooking Daily, edits Coastal Shelf, and recommends literary magazines at The Submission Wizard.

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