A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

Cave Canem 2013

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Cave Canem Logo

First of all it’s pronounced the Latin way, Ca-VEY CA-nem, which means “Beware of the dog.” The picture of the black dog with a broken chain is a warning that Black poets unleashed will attack the world.

In seven days you write six poems and workshop them with your group of CC fellows. Faculty members rotate in the space daily, so you are exposed to a different way of reading and discussing poems. There is a day-long trip to the City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, faculty readings, fellows reading, and a graduation party.

That’s what Cave Canem does; this is what Cave Canem is–a haven for black poetry. And yes, that’s sort of what the tagline says, but there is no other way to describe it. Every day CC fellows are challenged to “write the hard poem,” that poem you’re afraid to write, that you’ve been avoiding for a while.

This time, I wrote toward the hard poem–starting with an indecisive expression of a sensation of silence within me. I came to CC unsure if I was going to be able to access what I felt inside of me, afraid of the emotional excavation that had to be done to get there. The first poem was me trying to figure what I wanted to do.

So on Day 2, I went far out, to outer space and wrote a poem in the voice of the planet Mars. I see it as a companion piece to “Transit of Venus,” and perhaps, part of a series on the planets and other objects in the universe.

Day 3 I tried to ground myself in a work poem.  Not sure how successful I was, but at least it was a start.

By Day 4, my group’s poetic aesthetic starts to influence me and I begin to lean into the lyric. I used a title in the style of one of my group mates to tackle family issues. So my writing was literally moving closer to home.

Day 5’s poem addressed a matter of the heart, and for Day 6, I think I finally wrote the poem I was meant to write at Cave Canem about feeling the weight of mortality bare down on me because I am single & childless.

And I know I wouldn’t have written that poem if I hadn’t been a Cave Canem, if I hadn’t had the time and space, the love and support of the fabulously mellow women of Group B or the other fellows and faculty as tangible examples of how to risk, fall, and fly!

Author: poetsdoublelife

Poet and data guru living in Durham, NC.

8 thoughts on “Cave Canem 2013

  1. Sounds like a fantastic experience. Look forward to hearing those poems soon!

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