I met him by email, and before I knew what was happening, James Cummins had challenged me to a game of six. Six words he chose, which I was charged to use as end-words in a sestina. I will never know why those six, except that he is a terrifically fun and mischievous person.
“I have an article due today,” I told him, “and I’m targeting to finish a book in the next few weeks, but I’m sure I’ll have time to look up Delft and avoirdupois sometime before then.”
These were words he apparently carried around in his pocket, along with four others: tea caddy, Betjeman and Barton (my fault, I gave him that in the email that preceded his challenge), rosewood, and porcelain.
I closed the email and tried to work on my article. I fiddled around with thoughts of my book. But the six words and the challenge wouldn’t go away. So I forfeited a Friday morning to answer him. A few hours later I told him, “Now you know something about me. I can never pass up a challenge.” Which isn’t exactly true, but it’s true enough when something strikes my fancy.
You can see my answer to his proposal here, at The Best American Poetry.
When you get to The Best American Poetry, you’ll see that I could not resist a counter-challenge. What’s good for the goose, as they say. Without telling James about my source material, I chose six words from Anne Doe Overstreet’s poem “Compass Rose,” and he wrote a poem that made me smile. Yes, I had to torture (um, tease) him by including the word Puye in his six.
Here is Anne’s poem, which he secretly worked from. And, btw, he thanked me later for my kindness in choosing Puye. You’ll see why in a moment…
Post by L.L. Barkat. Visit L.L. at Seedlings in Stone, for more on writing, poetry, art and life.
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