Cento: Poetic Forms

Author:
Publish date:

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms that you may or may not know. This week, we take a look at the cento, which is a form of found poetry that is entirely composed of lines and phrases from previously written poems.

Image placeholder title

Cento Poems

At it's most basic level, the cento is a poem comprised of lines and phrases from other previously written poems. Many centos (including my example below) use the work of multiple poets. But there are some that focus on just one specific poet.

The cento can be a sort of ode to the poet and/or poets featured. Or it can be satire.

A Note on Plagiarism: Found poetry of any kind is always a little on the fun but potentially troubling side of literature. While many poets back to Homer and in contemporary times have written centos, it should always be made apparent that you are not passing someone else's work off as your own.

*****

Master Poetic Forms!

Image placeholder title

Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.

This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works. Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!

Click to continue.

*****

Here’s my attempt at Cento:

And we let the fish go, by Robert Lee Brewer

A bestiary catalogs these hips are
big hips: My mother is a fish.

In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see
the best minds of our generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked, because we could not stop
for Death, beside the white chickens.

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
“I am not a painter; I am a poet;
and I eat men like air.” I have gone
out, a possessed witch, even as I speak,
for lack of love alone–sweet to tongue
and sound to eye–and that has made
all the difference. They tell me you

are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas
lamps luring the farm boys. We wear the mask
that grins and lies, “The blind always come
as such a surprise.” Let us go then,

you and I: We real cool. We rage,
rage against the dying of the light.

*****

(As you can see, many great lines were referenced and turned into a new whole, fighting for a new meaning. 21 poets–including the title–were referenced: I wonder who can figure out the most in the comments below.)

From Our Readers

Describe the First Time a Book Transported You to Another/Magical World: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers ask: Describe the First Time a Book Transported You to Another/Magical World. Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

About Us: How to Handle Your Story That Involves Other People

About Us: How to Handle Your Story That Involves Other People

Your story belongs to you but will involve other people. Where do your rights end and theirs begin?

Identifying Your Book's Target Audience

Identifying Your Book's Target Audience

Editor-in-chief Amy Jones navigates how to know your target audience, and how knowing will make your writing stronger.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 575

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a safe poem.

ryoji-iwata-QKHmi6ENAmk-unsplash

I Spy

Every writer needs a little inspiration once and a while. For today's prompt, someone is watching your narrator ... but there's a twist.

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

In this article, Brian Freeman, author of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Treachery, discusses how he took up the mantle of a great series and made it his own.

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Learn how to distinguish the sole from the soul with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

In this brave new world of virtual learning and social distance, Kristy Stevenson helps us make the most of the virtual conference.

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

Writers of historical fiction must always ride the line between factual and fictitious. Here, author Terry Roberts discusses how to navigate that line.