Wolf Centos is comprised of centos, a patchwork form that originated around the 4th century. The form is one which re-configures pre-existing poetic texts into new systems of imagery and ideas. The author is able to place poets in conversation with one another across centuries and across continents. Though the poems are explicitly sutured together by the motif of the wolf,Wolf Centos is comprised of centos, a patchwork form that originated around the 4th century. The form is one which re-configures pre-existing poetic texts into new systems of imagery and ideas. The author is able to place poets in conversation with one another across centuries and across continents. Though the poems are explicitly sutured together by the motif of the wolf, they are also linked by other elements, particularly motifs of language, loss, desire, and transformation. Wolf Centos is ultimately elegiac as it oscillates between transformation and stasis, wildness and domesticity, death and beauty, damage and healing, because ultimately our lives constantly shift between these polarities as well. The ultimate knowledge of the poems is that as we age and experience loss, we must retain our “wildness”—the wolf’s wilderness—inside us. In this way, the wolf becomes a symbol of a threshold, a transformative space....
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Wolf Centos Reviews
This was my pick for July 2014 for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club. Some fragments from my mini-review of the book:The centos echo each other, particular images and words cropping up again and again in the poems so often that they begin to form a fugue--both in the musical sense, with the development and interweaving of phrases and subjects, and in the psychological sense, as the poems repeatedly play with notions of loss of identity and flight into unfamiliar landscapes. Both the loss of self and the sense of strangeness are evoked through the vast variety in the sources from which the poems draw. I didn't count, but I'd guess Muench pulls fragments from at least 150 different poets writing in a wide array of languages and eras. The cento form itself dismantles certain ideas about ownership and authority--as Muench writes, "I learned / in the notebook lined by you, tree / & by you, sentence / that nothing was mine." By including such a range of times and tongues, the form also functions as an ark, an archive, a craft that preserves words, as Marianne Moore said, like a "collection of flies in amber."In Muench's book, these collections are part mourning, part memorial, part exhumation or even resurrection. As human and wolf mingle in the poems--the book is filled with ambiguous bones and tongues and ears, but also distinctly animal muzzles and paws and fangs--the centos reminded me of Dario Robleto's explorations of death, loss, and survival. Like his artwork, Wolf Centos is all about the materials: in both, fragments of the past are assembled and arranged to help us think about what persists beyond the end of any individual life.
I recently learned what a cento is, so I don’t have a lot of experience with reading them. That being said, I absolutely loved how each poem seemed like its own creation, and each line seemed like her own. Nothing felt awkward or out of place or unnatural. She has done an incredible job sewing together these lines.Each poem itself evokes a sort of earthy, primitive feel. After reading each poem, something moved deep within me - almost a reverential experience. If I could give this collection more than 5 stars, I would.
Muench gets so much out of borrowed lines. The through-motif in these centos is the image of the wolf and the word 'wolf' which appears in every one. Rich imagery, inventive language. Juxtaposition is king in a cento and Muench juxtaposes the heck out of her found lines. I didn't give it 5 stars only because, as a poet, I find an entire collection of centos can make the author feel distant. Writing the cento is definitely a generative process, but not a word belongs to the poet whose name is on the book, the poet only owns the juxtaposition.
Before reading this, I didn't know much about centos, but I adore this. One of my favorite things in writing is collage/fragmentation, and this collection has it in spades - plus amazing imagery and punch-to-the-gut moments regarding separation or loss. And also identity - another one of my favorite things to see in writing. Ugh. All of this is amazing.
Amazing collection of poems that really capitalizes on the cento form. Imagistically taut without relying too heavily on narrative--haunting, beautiful. Muench's attention to line and the surprising muscularity of her verse catapulted me through this volume. Will probably continue to influence my work in the years to come.
Beautifully startling and beyond impressive.
Loved this book. loved the wolves and the sequencing and the language
Simone Muench’s Wolf Centos is a collection stitched together of dense, fugue-like poems that manage to steal maintain a concise and vivid language. This would be a feat in and of itself, but Muench does this without her own words. These poems being Centos, they are composed of lines maintained by motifs of mourning, loss, and, of course, wolves. The sources for her quilts of very come from Dylan Thomas, William Shakespeare, Anna Akhmatova, W.B. Yeats, and one would expect lines that were very familiar. Yet Muench’s real generative gift is in making what should be familiar even more muscular, more strange. These poems are not mere pastiches or homages, but uniquely their own: frankenstein’s wolves. Muench does not hide her sources either though, each scrap can be made distinct. The wolf motif functions both as a point of coherence for the collection but also a figure of dark transformation. Muench then summons her wolves to contrast the wild and domestic, the remembered and the real. When a poem’s narrator says: I have lost my being in so many beings: travelers passing by night, the great wolf who goes wounded & bleeding through the snows.One sees somewhat clearly how the wolf functions: both apparition and wounded animal. The dissolution of singular narrative voice as well as the embodiment of a unitary vision behind such a polyphonic voice. These poems imply a narrative development but do not articulate one. One feels like this is more than a limitation of the Cento, but a thematic conceit to the collection. A truly haunting book in its own way.
While Muench is a great writer, I have to admit the wolf theme just didn’t do it for me. It might be because I read it in one sitting, but I got a bit bored. However, the writing itself was phenomenal and I plan to read more from Muench.