“Wholly One: Still (a cento for Furious Flower)”

During the week of the Syllabus Project, we curated a variety of ways for participants to engage with poetry, not only as scholars and teachers, but as its students and as its makers. We also sought ways to build community through a collective investment in the experience as well as the product.

The cento is a communal poetry form in which each person contributes a line from an existing poem, and the lines are assembled to create a new poem. Throughout the week, we invited participants to select their favorite lines from the poems they engaged with in the Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry anthology. At the end of the week, Advisory Board members Meta DuEwa Jones and McKinley E. Melton assembled “Wholly One: Still (a cento for Furious Flower).” On the last day, a communal reading of the cento closed the week’s events with an experience that emblematized the community, conversations, and connections we had built over the course of the previous week.

Who was she?

The one in the forgotten African language where we could have said exactly what we meant

for she is a holy one


Out here the surf rewrites our silences.

for worship. maybe my mother’s coffee cup with lipstick

the voice dynamic, masterful like hieroglyphics

Justice is not a pendulum it is not a hammer it is not a bandage


What god can unlatch its jaw and swallow me whole?

What wasn’t trouble

I troubled.

yeah girl. And it happened, feeling a rogue breeze

pump fake    &   fast break   must be    breakfast    brown


And I don’t think for a second that we won’t survive this.

the red doves tumbling from the torsos–the bodies

Calluses fuse into a leather of endurance.


This is how we share our secrets now

Together, we bake everyday pains into guilty pleasures.

his neck. My skin, my flesh, its power of resistance

To entirely finish is water entering water.


What is it you need when you’re fleeing your home?

my woman, I name her as if she is mine,

an engine.

The field widens before it clichés.


Justice is not a pendulum it is not a hammer it is not a bandage

we are fabulous.

& we still are.


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The Furious Flower Syllabus Project: Opening the World of Black Poetry Copyright © 2024 by Anastacia-Reneé; allia abdullah-matta; Ariana Benson; Mary Beth Cancienne; Teri Ellen Cross Davis; Shameka Cunningham; Hayes Davis; Tyree Daye; Angel C. Dye; Brian Hannon; T.J. Hendrix; DaMaris B. Hill; Meta DuEwa Jones; Shauna M. Morgan; Adrienne Danyelle Oliver; Leona Sevick; James Smethurst; Dana A. Williams; L. Lamar Wilson; Carmin Wong; Dave Wooley; and Joanne V. Gabbin (preface) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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