About "Two Judiths...": My new writing workshop friend Judith Mitiguy invited all women to her 60th birthday party with a request that each of us bring a poem to read. About the same time, I was asked to respond to one of the works of art at the Dayton Art Institute. Perusing the institute's online exhibit, I was excited to find two works on Judith of Bethulia, whose story I became familiar with a decade ago when my husband decided to teach the Biblical version alongside the D.W. Griffith film. As I looked at the first painting and the curator's notes on it, I began to look up others. There seemed to be infinitely many versions of Judith's story, and the more I found, the more I talked about her and the more people led me to. I was struck by how the very personal story is set inside the larger story of the very bloody war taking place in Judith of Bethulia's time. It reminded me of the war raging now in the same place. So I had found a poem for Judith's birthday. Once I got a draft of that poem out, I wanted to respond to the second Judith of Bethulia work at Dayton, too, and I have dedicated that one to my long-standing friend Judith Crandell.
About "Cento...": Two decades ago, I began a series of poems about Frida Kahlo, each poem based on a specific Kahlo painting. I loved the pun in this particular Kahlo painting, 'Diego on My Mind,' which shows a picture of Diego painted on Frida's forehead, though it is a pretty grim pun: Diego was on her mind because of difficult times in the marriage. I didn't set out to write a cento at first. The opening line is from a contemporary poem about Llorona, the crying woman of Mexican folklore and song, and I tried using it as an epigraph, but it wasn't what the poem was about. I had lots of lines about marriage collected in my notebook, many of them grim, and try as I might to cement them together with my own lines, my own lines seemed so much blahblahblah, so somewhere along the way, I let them go and embraced the cento form and found a place for the Keats lines I had memorized so very many years ago.