Memoir (Cento)


Memoir (Cento)

Your hands touched
everything. Will you

be a fountain
or a sea?

A woman sleeps next to me
on the earth. Now

nothing else keeps my eyes
in the cloud.

Each rock is news.

A cento is composed of lines from poems by other
poets. This cento originated from pieces in:

77 Poems, Alberto de Lacerda
Because the Sea is Black, Blaga Dimitrova
Body Rags, Galway Kinnell
Song of the Simple Truth, Julia de Burgos
Love Poems, Anne Sexton

For further information and examples of the form, you might peruse the Academy of American Poets site:

Schody ve věži v Olomouci

53 thoughts on “Memoir (Cento)

  1. Stunning poem! I love the Cento technique, having read others’ works, but I’ve never produced one myself. I just may have to try this! BTW, Anne Sexton’s Love Poems is one of my favorite collections of poems.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. great form of poetry, I love new techniques too. I often will take a line for a poem I like by another author and use it as the first or last line of my poem. thank you for posting. great job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The cento is a time-honored form. I added a link to the Academy of American Poets site, which offers a definition and example. And yes, as long as you credit the poets (and don’t lift entire poems) it isn’t considered plagiarism. A recent book, Wolf Centos, by Simone Muench, is comprised entirely of centos. It’s quite wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great idea. Poetry like life is collective work. We did not invent the words nor the feelings that evoke, but we share and stake a claim. As a really new poet (it always enchanted by intimidated me), all these variations and forms are such a gift. Like new toys that I must open and try .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This looks enjoyable and challenging! I’ll have to try this when I have some
    down time. You did a great job with this. There are times, in my own writing, where I try to piece one poem together from notes or poems that I’ve written and I can notice the seams showing. That is not the case, here. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Cate. For years I mispronounced cento. I thought it was pronounced “chento,” like the Italian word for 100, which is spelled the same. And then one day I realized that etymology made absolutely no sense, and I looked up the pronunciation. Ha!


  5. I adore the Cento, and I’m happy to see one of my WordPress poet friends putting the form to such lovely use! The idea of making a “patchwork” resonates with me — when first I read the description of the Cento, the technique of patching together lines created by other poets, it reminded me of my Grandmother’s (very pragmatic and creative) hobby of making patchwork quilts.

    Each quilt she made was pieced together from favorite possessions, treasured things, such as a lacy handkerchief or childhood dress, or winter coat. Those special gifts, though they were too worn to be functional any longer, got salvaged and made into a new treasure.

    I see this form, the Cento, as the highest form of compliment to featured poets, and I see it (especially as you have done here) as the highest form of creativity at work. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve found a few published collections of Cento poetry for sale online, but haven’t been able to purchase them yet. Do you have any knowledge of such authors’ process for crediting previously published poets? I’d love to build a collection of my own, but cannot find any reference for how this is done.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve noticed that in at least one journal publication, Simone Muench includes a “credits” section with each poem and simply lists the authors, with no mention of poem or book. I’ll probably follow this model, keeping, of course, a detailed list in my personal notes.


  6. Pingback: Discovering the Cento « buildingapoem

  7. You left your avatar print on a silly poem I wrote, that’s how I found you. I am new as a reader on wordpress; I’ve been a writer here for 3 years. Time constraints and I chose to be a writer, first. I have much to learn from reading. I am a literacy coach and we are studying memoirs in the 5th grade with students. What an awesome form this is, the centi, and I will take this with me tomorrow to share. Not to be too long winded, but after reading your work, I feel a bit foolish with my entry, but not too foolish as now I’ve found you!

    Liked by 1 person

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