Tag Archives: cento

Oulipoem 1: April 1– Quote Cento

Here we go.

Oulipo 1 The Prompt:

‘When composing a cento, poets take lines from existing poems (traditionally without any alterations) and patch them together to form a new poem. Today, create a cento using only quotes referenced in newspaper articles. For example, if a newspaper article contained the line “It was a tragedy,” commented Detective Smith, the line, “It was a tragedy,” would be available for you to use in your poem. While you can’t change anything within the quotes themselves, you may choose to break a longer quote in half or use just part of a quote as needed.


• Purist? Challenge yourself to write your cento using only complete quotes (sentences) as they appear in your articles.

• Add an additional constraint by challenging yourself to use only quotes sourced from a single article, single newspaper page or single newspaper section.’

The Poem:

I’m Always a Dancer

There are lots of people
trying things —
we all keep trying.

This is not a race,
a West Coast storyline,
a woman weaving on a loom
on the Great Plains,
a photographic life
who secretly had
a great story to tell
locked in.

This was one piece.

All we can do
is try to trace out patterns
and the potential for meaning.

The sources:

Baker, Kenneth. ‘Big donations of American Indians works.’ San Francisco Chronicle. 1 April, 2014: E1
Carroll, Jon. There are indeed some worthy news sites.’ San Francisco Chronicle. 1 April, 2014: E6
Cole, James. Bloomberg Briefing.’ San Francisco Chronicle. 1 April, 2014: D1
Garchik, Leah. ‘Varon makes static on old boys’ network.’ San Francisco Chronicle. 1 April, 2014: E6
Hunt, Mary Ellen. ‘Obituary Marc Platt.’ San Francisco Chronicle. 1 April, 2014: C4
Whiting, Sam. ‘Turning page on secret life.’ San Francisco Chronicle. 1 April, 2014: E2


Posted by on 01/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry


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NaPoWriMo: Four Knocking at the Door

I tell you what — this month requires great dexterity of brain. I post my poem for the Pulitzer Remix challenge and go to put on laundry; then, I remember I need to post the link in Facebook and Twitter. I post Your Poetics Serendipity @ Thursday Thoughts, a reblog [Hmm. I need to look at that again. What did they title the post?], and go away to make the bed; then, I remember I have to post my poems for today for NaPoWriMo. I read a bunch of poems by fellow writers; then, I remember I need to write another poem. Does it never stop!?

I was again caught by two prompts, the first from Joseph at Recursions and the second from Poets & Writers. In a moment of startling clarity, I realised I can use one of them for tomorrow, should I come up dry. She’s always thinking, isn’t she? Just amazing, sometimes.

Today, Joseph’s prompt which sends us panning for gold in other writers’ poems. It’s cento time!

withdrawn for editing

See you tomorrow. Happy writing.


Posted by on 04/04/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Cento: Self Is

Well, hello again. Perceiving a slight challenge from a couple of you [cough Mary, Teri cough], I swung into action. Yes, I am sneaky. You remain in the dark about my particular self, but I had great fun working through the statements I gave you and coming up with a cento.

Cento: An I For An I

I know that I exist; the question is, what is this ‘I’ that I know?
What was I before I came to self-consciousness? I did not exist at all,
for I was not an I. The I exists only as it is conscious of itself.

Any fixed categorization of the Self is a big goof.
The tension between “yes” and “no,” between “I can” and “I cannot,”
makes us feel that human life is an interminable debate with one’s self.
A self is an abstraction, a mythical entity, a philosophical muddle,
a center of narrative gravity.
The self which is reflexively referred to
is synthesized in that very act of reflexive self-reference —
I think, therefore I am —
When Thales was asked what was difficult, he said, ‘To know one’s self,’
to know the malignancy of one’s own instincts
and to know, as well, one’s power to deflect it;
to discover that we are capable of solitary joy and having experienced it,
know that we have touched the core of self.

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself.
But the self is not something that one finds.
It is something that one creates.

(Descartes, 1641) (Fichte, 1794–5)  (Ginsberg, 1963)  (Kenny, 1988) (Nozick, 1981) (Dennett, 1991) [Diogenes Laetius (fl. early 3d cent.) Thales. ix.] [Anatole Broyard NY Times 13 Jan 76] [Thomas Szasz The Second Sin Doubleday 73]  [Dr Karl A Menninger Vogue Jun 61] [Barbara Lazear Ascher Playing after Dark Doubleday 86]


Posted by on 25/05/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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We Write Poems # 85: Response

Window Panes

Coyote says, Read the window,
reflections are false images,
windows don’t fuss about truth —
Pause, and think about that.

(her mass is small,
her soul is ill-fitting,
a tattoo trapped in skin,
drawn lines bent to fit)

The window slams shut,
faces at the window, enigmatic;
faces large and small
high in the air, an illusion

imprinted in the window,
a feeling of disparity. Ghosts
seen only in small snatches
their faces are indistinct.

Throw yourself, not knowing
who you’ll be on the other side.
Pause, and think about that.
Pause, and think about that.

Process notes: Almost immediately on reading the prompt, I knew this was how I wanted to revisit the image, through the words of the others who wrote poems last week. I wanted to write a cento, partly because I love writing centos and partly to say thank you, not only to those who posted last week, but to all the writers in the group where I have found a place.

After the first draft, I knew I needed something that allowed for the disparity among stanzas. Thus, the title. Each stanza is a pane in a larger window, or a pane taken from different windows, as in an apartment building. I felt with that as the title, the stanzas work together.

For their lines, my humble thanks:
Neil Reid of Bearly Audible
Don Harbour of Donald Harbour Poetry
Nicole of Raven’s Wing Poetry
Barb aka Briarcat [I tried to find the blog’s name]
Joseph Harker of Naming Constellations
Elizabeth Crawford of Soul’s Music
Wayne Pitchko of Poga Poetry
annell of annellannell
Nan at Jade Page Press
ViV at Vivinfrance’s Blog
Pamela at wordsandthoughtspjs
Sharon at The Poet Treehouse
miskmask at Alphabet Soup du Jour

My apologies for the lack of links. My bookmarks are back in Atlanta. I shall add them when I return home. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to read the results of today’s prompt, or last week’s which led to it, be sure to go to We Write Poems.


Posted by on 21/12/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Cento From Frost

Good day to my regular readers. As promised this extra post is both a response to We Write Poems prompt and an example of a cento if you need one for yourselves. I had to do some tweaking to bring the point of view in line so it is all third person and I had to change one word and some tenses. Otherwise this is Frost restitched [thank you, Linda, for the metaphor].

In All But Words

The questions that he frames in all but words
will run as hushed as when they were a thought;
seeking with memories grown dim overnight
they cannot scare him with their empty spaces.

Extremes too hard to comprehend at once
the questions that he frames in all but words;
they fall, they rip the grass, they intersect,
they must go downward past things coming up

be swallowed up in leaves that blow away,
yet nothing he should care to leave behind,
the questions that he frames in all but words
to scare himself with his own desert places.

Yet knowing way leads on to way
to every thing on earth the compass round
he let them lie there til he hoped they slept
the questions that he framed in all but words.

with apologies to Robert Frost for any tweaking I had to do.

Lines from:

“A Considerable Speck”
“A Dream Pang”
“A Soldier”
“Desert Places”
“In Hardwood Groves”
“The Armful”
“The Line-Gang”
“The Oven Bird”
“The Road Not Taken”
“The Silken Tent”

Remember to visit We Write Poems to see other examples of centos.


Posted by on 11/05/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: The Cento

9:07 a.m.–Atlanta

Hello everyone. I sense a ballad battlefield strewn with wounded, moaning poets. And those of you who don’t write, but follow me to read my posts [bless you], are thinking: Wow! Glad I didn’t have to try that. But, maybe a small percentage of you tried? I hope so. It’s worth it to add ballads to your arsenal.

Let me, for a moment, before I talk about this week’s exercise, tell you why form is so important to a writer. I wrote free verse for years before tackling forms, because the structure of most forms seems daunting. But, once I conquered my fears, I found that forms not only freed me, but give me great pleasure. To have to work within constraints to craft a poem makes me stretch my writing muscles.

I also became aware that to write good free verse, I needed to learn about structure. Free verse is not writing anything down without a form. Free verse has structure, uses poetic devices, requires pacing. The freedom comes in the structure not being a set structure but one a writer devises. In many ways, writing good free verse is more difficult than following a set of rules.

That’s my 101 for today. Now to the exercise. I will give you a break from form and give you one of my favourite things to play with in creating poetry: the cento. Those of you who follow We Write Poems know that they set that as their prompt this week [totally independently–I do love serendipity], as well. I will tell you what you need to do and tomorrow you will have an extra post from me with two examples, as I will be posting responses to We Write Poems.

Choose a poet you enjoy and find an online resource that carries several of his/her poems [I Googled: Robert Frost’s poems]. Go through and copy one or two lines you like from at least five poems. You probably want to aim for having fifteen to twenty lines. You can keep an undefined theme running through your choices, or go nuts and pick lines without worrying whether they will be easy to make work. Be sure and note for each line you copy, the name of the poem.

To make my life easier, I write the lines so I can cut them into strips and sit at a table, or on the floor, to shift the order of the lines around until they make sense. In a proper cento, nothing should be changed except the punctuation. I had to, with my choices, shift the point of view, so the speaker was all first person, or third person.

But, I also enjoy tweaking the cento and incorporating lines. You may remember a poem I posted a few weeks ago using first lines from e. e. cummings. Much of the poem had my words as well. You might try a pure cento first and then if you have one you are itching to tweak, go ahead. After the poem is done, remember to write the author and titles of the poems from which you took the lines.

Don’t forget that I enjoy seeing the fruits of your labours and do post your efforts in my comments, or link to your own blog. You can always remove the poem later.

If you know anyone who would enjoy this, click on the buttons below. And, I shall see you Thursday for seven random facts about me, plus some of the blogs I will nominate for the Versatile Blogger award. Friday will be the week’s roundup of prompts and next Tuesday we will look at cascade poems. Don’t they sound lovely? Happy writing.


Posted by on 10/05/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Monday Mantra: Never Throw Anything Out

9: 37 am, Monday, 10 January, 2011 – Atlanta

Goodday! Is anyone not sitting in snow?

The mantra for today already has some of you rubbing your hands in glee: Yay! She says never throw anything out. I mean what you write. How often have you crumpled up a piece of paper on which you started a poem, but it didn’t pan out? How many of you rip pages out of your notebook and toss them, if the poem isn’t working? And, how many scratch through words and phrases, so that when your brain says later [as it will]: Wait! I had a good line way back that will work here…gone. Unreadable.

You never know when a line, a word, an image, a stanza that did not work initially, will spark something new, or be the perfect thing in something you are working on. Jessie Carty of Referential mentions in an early blog post that she had gone back through her old notes and drafts looking for inspiration. She began to collect lines that she liked and ended up with a great draft for a poem by pulling together lines and phrases that fell together. She says “I have no idea what this monstrosity of a poem is but I put it together from about 10 older poems, meaning, I pulled fragments from old poems to see if I could create something new.”

If you keep notebooks then it’s easy. As I write/revise initially I will put a thin line through words I don’t want to use, but I can still read what I have. If I don’t like what I wrote, I write Ick![important poetic term] but I leave it in place. Every now and then I go back through and look for things that spark. A poem I thought of as weak might have two great lines, or a strong image.  Sometimes when I go through and I see words, phrases, images or lines that I like but don’t have anything to use them in, I’ll write them on a sticky note and place the notes together at the back of my notebook. Sometimes pulling them and seeing them out of context makes a difference. Sometimes I will tab places I want to return to.

Then there are the lines that I have written on paper napkins, the backs of receipts, a scrap of paper, an index card…those all go in a box. When looking for inspiration I will sift through and pull things. Think of it as a cento, or patchwork poem, but based on your own stuff [another important poetic term]. I call anything I do of this nature a jodie, after a young man in the creative writing class I took part in, who, when we were all sharing lines of ours that we liked, was quietly writing them down. The found poem he created from the random lines and images was quite splendid. I wish I had a copy, but his actions taught me that everything might have a use. In writing we never know from where or when inspiration will strike.

Think of it as a treasure hunt! Tomorrow, get ready for a structured poem exercise.

All images from OCAL


Posted by on 10/01/2011 in poetry, writing


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