February 2010 Read Write Poem Mini-Challenge Poem #1: The Fire This Time

This is my first piece for the February 2010 Mini-Challenge over at Read Write Poem. This month’s challenge directed us to gather a poet’s work around us, pull out or underline lines we really liked, and then construct at least two centos, or patchwork poems (one each on days one and two, of course) from those lines. On day 3, we have the option of either writing another cento or parting ways with the lines and writing our own poems based on or inspired by our chosen poet.

I chose Arthur Rimbaud.

And you can read all of my February Mini-Challenge Poems here.


The epic of a madness. Ecstasy, nightmare, sleep, in a
nest of flames. I summoned pestilence so I could choke on
sand, on blood. I buried the dead in my bowels. I’ve got a
taste for almost nothing anymore but dirt and stones. Feed on
broken bricks, on bits of scree and the old stones in churchyards; I have
faith in poison.

I belong to the race that sings under torture;
my hand is not mine and will never be.

It started out as an experiment. I said: “God. As of today, I rebel against
death! I belong to happiness, body and soul. I’m going to unveil
all the mysteries: mysteries religious and natural, death, birth, the past,
the future, the cosmos, nothingness. I’ll be the maestro of
phantasmagoria.” I standardized the language of frenzy; I wrote
silences and darknesses, I transcribed the inexpressible. I dragged myself
through stinking alleyways and, with eyes shut tight, I gave myself
to the sun, the god of fire. The fire leaps up with my soul inside.

I belong to the race that sings under torture;
my hand is not mine and will never be.

I fell asleep for days at a time and, upon waking, I dragged the saddest dreams
along. Countless hallucinations. I became a fabulous opera; I loved
the deserts, burnt orchards, faded storefronts, tepid drinks. In the past, I
would have been endless. I’m a leper sitting among thorns and
broken crockery at the foot of a sun-corroded wall. The dried blood
smolders on my face; I await God greedily.

I belong to the race that sings under torture;
my hand is not mine and will never be.

Composed 2/21/10

All lines taken from Donald Revell’s translation of “A Season in Hell” by Arthur Rimbaud.

Note: Most of Rimbaud’s original text and Revell’s translations are formatted in prose. Thus, instead of strictly borrowing lines, I chose to use entire sentences. In some cases, Rimbaud would join two sentences with a semi-colon; thus I bent the rules a bit for this assignment and took the liberty of using each of these sentences separately or combining them with other sentences. I composed this piece using the bop form, as detailed in Read Write Poem Prompt #67 and this Get the Lead Out post over at RWP. This form was invented by Aafa Michael Weaver and is composed of three stanzas with a refrain. You can read more about it here.

Stumble It!
Stumble It!

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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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3 Responses to February 2010 Read Write Poem Mini-Challenge Poem #1: The Fire This Time

  1. You wove this so brilliantly, there isn’t the slightest hint of this being a Cento. Marvelous!

  2. irene says:

    Yea, like Julie said, seamless. It even sounds like you. Good work, Nicole.

  3. Thank you, both. I found this prompt to be a bit of a challenge, trying to weave together everything. Rimbaud’s lines, however, had a certain versatility to them which made it easy to piece certain ones together. I liked Revell’s translation and will probably check out Fowlie’s next.

    The line breaks are my own, which is why it probably looks like me. Since for this piece Rimbaud apparently wrote almost in prose, I decided to take the liberty of stringing sentences together and then breaking where I felt was appropriate. Had I been using some of his other work, I would have honored his original line breaks.


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