Biography (Cento)


Biography (Cento) 

I am becoming
one of the old

men, but you,
you are earth.

Where is the moment
that lingers,

the static of lost
voices and the feel

of the cleft in the bark.
Ask me anything.

Why am I
grown so cold?

Have you been here?

is wind in a cage;
it does not say anything.

* * *


James Wright, Cesare Pavese, Ruth Ellen Kocher, HD, Eduardo C. Corral,
Adelaide Crapsey, Denise Levertov, Blaga Dimitrova, Jacques Roubaud,

* * *

A cento is composed of lines from poems by other poets.

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


57 thoughts on “Biography (Cento)

  1. Pingback: Biography (Cento) — O at the Edges – mywordCanvass

  2. When I have a biography to write someday, I hope to be able to conclude it with such an insight as yours. “Thinking … does not say anything” is a lesson I’ve been trying to wrap myself around for some time (especially as I do most of my thinking out loud, which often feels like a case of diarrhea of the mouth…).

    Liked by 3 people

  3. i arrange centos with lines from Korean poets & use them as song lyrics: i am an atrocious lyricist. its quite a nice juxtaposition: slide blues, Kim Chi-ha & Cheon Song-pyeong.
    you may be getting old Robert, but your creative powers are yet to show any signs of waning.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve just recently realized that I am indeed getting old, hence the use of the Wright line “I am becoming one of the old men.” When Wright was my age, he’d been dead for five years. When Roethke reached my age, he’d been gone for more than two years. I don’t know how long I’ll continue (who does?), but I’ll continue trying to make up for lost time – though I’ve dabbled in poetry for more than 30 years, I’ve only seriously given myself to it for a little more than 4 1/2 years. I have so much to learn, so much to do. Having been forced to face my mortality once, and having other challenges thrown at me, all I can say is that I am grateful for my alloted time and that I intend to make the best of it. The years blur by quickly, Daniel. One moment I was approaching 30. The next, I find myself nearing 60.


      • well i think if you can keep madness at bay then you should outlive Roethke by some time., so i wouldn’t worry about usurping his benchmark year by a fair few more productive years. eat plenty of decent nosh (food) & keep the mind busy thus agile, you should be ok.
        as for arrogance in youth, it is probably better for us to get it out of our system when young rather than develop it in our crepuscular years. i suppose that is a part of growing wise.
        i hope i am still as devoted to poetry at your age Robert & that when i am your age you are still putting in the hours & churning out post-octogenarian verse & teaching the young up starts how to write.

        Liked by 1 person

    • My one and only regret from my life in poetry is that I was once approached by a country-western songwriter who asked if I might consider collaborating, as he was looking for a lyricist. I was a young and arrogant 20-something poet back then, and considered myself above such things. Now, I’d embrace the idea, and enjoy attempting something new. I have no idea if the songwriter achieved any success – I discarded his business card soon after, and don’t remember his name. I’m a horrible musician, and can’t write decent lyrics to my own “music.” But it would be fascinating to try to write to good melodies.

      Liked by 1 person

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