“Ezra Pound’s slogan was itself the product of historical recycling,” Michael North tells us, tracing the origins of the phrase to ancient China. Ecclesiastes proclaims nothing new under the sun. Coolhunting has been a marketing concept for more than twenty years. Always and everywhere, we find the new in the old, the old in the new.




First, the old:


We fall back to the source of lyric poetry—Sappho on her isle of Lesbos around 600 BC, accompanied with just a lute and her desire. Today, Sappho’s poetry comes to us in remnants: poetic fragments preserved on ancient papyrus that have been ravaged and lost to time. It is precisely this ambivalence of the Sapphic fragment, frustrating in its holes, that inspires us to fill in the gaps with our own words.


For our first prompt, poets were invited to riff off Sappho. As each of them inserted themselves into the empty spaces of her narrative, they formed a family tree of poetic descendents. the again restates Pound with quiet lyricism, via The Wasteland:


sight on dark
choose first among the ruins
flower of the again


Meanwhile, “The Nightingale’s…” harvests images from the daily mundane:


Join me next time.
You were at home,
cooking breakfast.

Indeed, Sappho-found poems tend to speak of labor—that of household chores and of childbirth, of a certain kind of femininity entwined with acts of creation:


Her paint spreads thick on the salt.          (Fingered Fragments)


Some days, I am
a vessel
for an other-worldliness
that must come to shore.                        (“I have no complaint…”)           


And yet others like In spring, the bees make honey, anxious and spare, wrestle with the impossibility of creation ex nihilo, the paralysis of infinite choice:


I can’t work the loom.
I can’t cry.
I can’t bring the child home.
I can’t enter a home of poetry.




After the old, the new:


The “solution” of modern technology appears to bridge gaps, locate things, and bind objects together. Using prompts from iconic literatures such as imdb.com and Bilboard chart song lyrics, as well as romps through art galleries, artists and poets came up with cross-pollinated works: the sonogrammatic Mononoke Hime with a bloody mouth, the playful Mashup of Bett Norris and Degas, and the limber recombinations of Wong Kar Wai in 2046—II with its cinematic arrangement into poetry:


  the hotelier’s | daughter lays her
mind | out (like


In line with the spirit of this prompt, many works exhibit a pop-culture pastiche sensibility. Perhaps the exemplar of this tendency is found in Make Not Thy Head a Grave, a short but intensely polyvocalic construction borrowing from Samuel Pepys, Jack Kerouac, James Tate and others in a cacophony of voices:


Ah, for a neck!
— “Goodness!”


There is also the gathering of esteemed lyricists Van Halen, Black, and Minaj in The Death of a Love Song, proclaiming:


Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass.




Always and everywhere, we find the new in the old, the old in the new.


Modernity’s proliferation of media and voices seems an endless resource for finding poetry that can never be lost in a surging ocean of data; so why then do the same old Sapphic cracks still appear again and again?


Upon closer examination, it is difficult to tell which poems are influenced by Sappho and which by pop culture. The old brims with invention, and the new is tethered by something aged.


Today, a corkboard hangs on the wall in a thrift shop, as observed in Headstones, for passersby to tack on prayer requests scribbled on a napkin. Brought together by the modern technology of thumbtacks and paper serviettes, various voices collect in a single space where they simultaneously fragment, each torn napkin shred not very different from a disintegrating Sapphic papyrus:


What remains are the words of Midnight the family dog

dying of bone cancer, of the boy hoping someone who loves

him will find a job that pays money, of the Chinchilla stricken

with lupus, of the cat older than the sofa…


Perhaps that is the nature of all poetry. First lost, in order to be found again; and found so that it may be lost anew.


As a 1779 hymn goes:


I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.


Come and see.

                                                                                                    ~OF ZOOS Editors