This week in Fringe, we’re featuring Celia Lisset Alvarez’s longer poem “Blackbirds.” It’s a nonce sestina and, accordingly, 39 lines long. That’s one line short of our usual minimum for longer poetry. But sestinas feel longer than their 39 lines, and this one is, we thought, especially rich. We’re happy to share it again. For the occasion, poetry editor Anna Lena Phillips asked Alvarez about the poem and her recent work.
Looking at this poem two years after its publication, what comes to mind? Is there anything you’d change? Anything you’d forgotten about and are happy to see?
Every time I think of this poem I still can’t believe Fringe picked it up, or that I wrote it. It’s so risky. So many unexplained words and phrases in Spanish—I left them in out of recklessness. The poem is a rare instance of not second-guessing myself. I “should have” tried harder to explain the words in Spanish, I “should have” tried harder to work with the sestina form, I “should have” done many things, I suppose, but I didn’t, and I’m so glad. I have gotten a lot of wonderful feedback on precisely those aspects of the poem that break the rules. One of my favorite... more »more »
“Oh man I can’t believe you actually sent it!” Dan shouts, in horror and glee. I lean back in my crumbling wheelie chair and smile wryly. Well, what’s done is done, I guess. “That’ll by twenty-five dollars,” I say, extending my palm expectantly. I am sure I have just committed my most grievous mistake of at least this week. Collecting my hard-earned reward, I retrace my errant steps. *** It started when I saw her going into our college dining hall late one... more »