When Brunel Volunteers mentioned they were hosting an Appreciation Day on 11th May, the poetic form called the cento came to mind. This form was created as a way of celebrating the work of another poet that you appreciate by taking one-hundred individual lines from a variety of their poems and collaging them into a new poem – a bit like making a quilt.
We thought it would be great to invite people to write and send in short poems of appreciation, thankfulness and gratitude, from which we could compile a little communal celebratory cento – a mutual ode of appreciation.
We received poems from Brunel students, staff, alumni, locals and from further afield including the USA and India. Looking through the poems, we were struck by the common themes that emerged, although perhaps these are not surprising given the year we’ve had. There were odes to nature, lots about bodies and touch, about longing and loneliness, about all the little things that have made all this bearable – a friendly text, a kind gesture, as well as portraits of family and friends, children playing, robins singing.
We then chose poignant, resonant, and striking lines or phrases from each of the entries and stitched them together into loosely themed stanzas to make the communal appreciation poem, which you can read below – enjoy!
Survival: A Cento
For months we have gestated here,
our home a roomy womb, a cushioned nest.
An old cardigan pulled tight becomes a life vest.
Wrapped in warmth, a morning text,
a supportive word, chases pessimism away.
Relax into a still, quiet focus – magic
or maybe scientific hypnosis:
the drip drip drip and hazelnutty hit
of freshly brewed coffee, the soft frivolity
of a brightly-coloured velvet scrunchie.
The girls dance and shriek, trailing rainbow-coloured kites
through the yard. They are five. They exist
in this moment to laugh with one another.
At story time, five kisses. Brace yourself,
tiny creatures and grow a little more.
I love you like our Hammersmith sky.
I much appreciate your sassy style,
eyes lit with remnants of cucumber peel.
I’m grateful you know me.
The postcard I send to you is empty.
And we meet in the awakening garden,
both more crumpled than last year,
both more relieved to be here.
The whispers of the trees,
clear skies that never end…
A red-breasted robin rests chest aflame.
Desolation snapped, vitality restored.
Notice this hug with shaky arms
around your oxbow curves –
you’re here, with me, for now.
Finally a big thank-you to everyone who sent in their poems to be a part of this project – we’ll be featuring commended entries on this blog and on social media via @BrunelWriter and @poetrycoterie soon, so keep your eyes peeled and do like and repost so we can share some appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness.
Anneka Hess | Emily Horton | Emma Filtness | Emma Mitchell | Fathima M | Hafsa | Kathryn Gynn | Keith Sterrow | Linda Hodgkinson | Marie-Teresa Hanna | Peter Eldrid | Ruth Sharma | Samantha Ley | Tania Bavarz | Wendy Allen | Wendy Rashed