Why Saints and Sinners?

Perhaps you are wondering why I chose “Saints and Sinners” as the subject for my first poem. Actually, if you know me, you know that it’s not a far-fetched category at all. Even though I’m not catholic, I love the mysteries of the rites of the catholic church: the incense, the forbidden Latin, the years and years of secrets. But that’s not why I chose my first line.

You see, several years ago, my best friend Mari and I sat in on a graduate poetry seminar with poet Toi Derricotte. During the first class, she had us do an exercise that, at first, I thought was a bit childish. But upon reflection, I thought that it was really a wonderful way to do several things at once in a workshop environment. She brought out what she called her magic box. Of course, in spite of our ages and inbred cynicism, we were intrigued. She told us that this box had incredible power that she was going to share with us, but only a little bit for each of us. What was this box? Of course, it was a box of words.

We each took two words from the box, and we drafted a poem using these two words. We then went around the circle and shared our very rough drafts of our poems and identified our two words. I thought that my two words were pure gold; they were azure and smoke. I don’t remember what poem I threw together, but I remember the words, and I remember the exercise. It broke the ice, immediately had us talking and creating and reacting to each other. I don’t remember much else about that group, but I remember my two words and that my poem had something to do with religion. Hence, when I had to come up with my first line for the first poem on this site, it seemed completely natural to turn to azure smoke. I have carried the phrase “saints and sinners” around with me for years but never used it in a poem, so I thought that it would be perfect as the inaugural poem title for this site.


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