Imitation is the best kind of flattery. All creative people know that, whether they are writers, artists, dancers, singers or actors. Think of the cast on a TV show like "The Voice" who sometimes play the song of a judge they are targeting. Sometimes it is imitation that brings them into the team of their dreams. It is the same with poetry.
Once you've made up your mind to write a poem, you often feel like you are in search of the perfect word, picture, or idea. In many ways, a poem is treasure and writing a poem is a dangerous treasure hunt. You never know what you might come across when you start writing.
Let's take a look at a type of poem called Cento. Cento is a Latin word from the 16th century and means "patchwork". One cento is made from "stolen" or found sources. Each line in a cento comes from a source, and when those lines are put together they are woven into a patchwork of lines.
Many people consider the Cento a kind of "collage poem". A collage is created by combining images, text and textures of different media and sizes. In a similar way, a cento is created by merging many found lines into a poem.
Of course, stealing is terrible and every artist has to give credit where credit is due. At the end of each cento there is a note in which the author lists the names of his source texts in the order in which they appear on the lines of the poem.
For your cento, You will use the At Home section to create a five to seven line poem. Your lines can be phrases from articles, headings, quotes, or even captions. Follow the steps below to cut and paste your Cento.
Hunt or rummage through the paper for lines that speak to you. Perhaps your eye will focus on a sentence that uses interesting language, such as a living verb or a compelling adjective. Perhaps you can find a sentence that contains a description of an image you admire, or you might find a line that relates to something that resonates with you, such as the mention of a season, color, or emotion. Keep looking for your cherished lines. You may already have a topic in mind, or once you've cut out your lines and really examines your topic, your topic will come to you.
Although this poem will be your own creation, the lines are not. Take out a piece of paper, or use a laptop or phone, write down each line, and note the author of the article that line came from. You will need this later.
Thief (or cut)
When you work with the printed newspaper, cut out the lines you find and place them on a flat surface. Or copy them to a document on your phone.
Look at your individual lines and play around with their order as you stretch them out like snippets of thread on a table or floor. Might jump off a line Another? If so, put the pair aside. Find connections again and again. Think of these stolen lines as threads that you weave together in meaning, image, or emotion.
After laying out your lines, think about how to put them together. If you're still deciding what your poem is about, you might be focusing on an emotion, place, or image. Your topic is yours. Let these borrowed words trigger something creative in you.
When you're ready, decide which line to start with and which line to end on. Using these lines as a frame will keep you motivated. Then start laying out your other lines. If something is wrong, move it around or cut it off. You might even want to find another line to replace it.
Paste your lines on paper or in a document and you have your penny. Make sure to write out or type your sources carefully.
Congratulations. You have now written a penny with the generous help of others!
Sources for Leah Umansky's Cento, taken from the November 8th issue of At Home: At Home-Cover, Courtney Rubin, Anna Goldfarb, Tara Parker-Pope, Joseph Burns, Anna Goldfarb, Anna Goldfarb