A Pantoum walks into a bar and orders up some interwoven quatrains. The Haiku Interrupts: “No, no. That’s not what you want. Get some specific syllables instead. Five, then seven, then five.” The Sonnet saunters over, “you’re all crazy. What you really want are fourteen lines in iambic pentameter. Meanwhile, I’m standing in the middle of the bar, totally confused as to who wants what, and, more importantly, why.
Regrettably, I’ve never really been one to write much in verse. I’m more prone to prose and I try and leave the poetry to the poets. Which is probably why my favorite rule-riddled form of poetry would have to be the cut-and-pasting, hat-tipping, patchwork-quilting Cento.
A Cento follows only one rule: Steal. It is a poem comprised entirely of reordered verses or passages taken from other authors’ works or poems. Not only does this take the pressure off of its author to constantly invent original and beautiful lines, it is a wonderful way to honor those poets whose writing you admire and to mash together different concepts and phrases in order to construct something new, different, yours.
For today’s prompt, we ask you to write a Cento. To begin, make a list of some standout lines from poems that you admire. We recommend perusing the Poets.org database for ideas. And don’t stop there, though–include in your list lines from TV shows, movies, books, advertisements, pamphlets, twitter (why not?), or anything else you may be drawn to. Now rearrange them in an order that is pleasing to you. Revel in your poet status.