Day 9: Sampling Cento Style

Spring is here. Let’s blossom together by creating a collage. A word collage called Cento.

Most people I meet tell me that they can’t write poetry. They may read it. A few even recite their favorites ones. What if I told you, there is poetry style created just for folks like you?

In the music world, it’s called sampling: taking an extract from one piece of music and mix it into something new. The PCM website has a detailed list of sampled songs. Here’s a few you might recognize:

“The Joker” by Steve Miller Band; “Angel” by Shaggy

“Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks; “Bottylicious” by Destiny’s Child

“Jack and Diane” by John Cougar Mellencamp; “I Think I’m in Love With You” by Jessica Simpson

“Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie; “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice

Now, take the idea of music sampling and apply it to poetry. It’s called Cento: a poem pieced together from lines taken from other poems. Cento is Latin for ‘patchwork.’ When applied to poetry, a writer creates a collage poem with lines from other poems.

It’s an easy way to create poetry! And, in the words of T.S. Eliot:

One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

Here’s how to create your poetry collage.

1. Find poems of a related theme or mood that speak to you. Photo copy them (or cut and paste).

2. Select favorite lines from each.

3. Choose one line to become the first line of your collage.

4. Add more lines, selecting lines carefully – the poem must make sense.

5. Please give credit by listing each poet’s full name and include the name of the poem in quotes. A cento that doesn’t give proper source credit could be confused with plagiarism.

Then, for added flair, try:

a) try for rhyming lines
b) check the cadence or beats per line.
c) tenses –past or present or future – need to agree.
d) Person – first or third – needs to agree.

To check out an example of Cento Poetry go to Every Person is a Philosopher blog.

I’ve never written a Cento Poem. I’m going to start on mine. What about you?

Sample and Create!

~ Linda Joyce


About Linda Joyce

Writing is a curious journey. You don't pick it, it picks you. See my website at to learn more about me.
This entry was posted in Authentic Living, Creativity, Learning, Links, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Day 9: Sampling Cento Style

  1. What an interesting idea, I’ll try my hand. There are a few poems from my childhood I’d like to revisit…

    • Linda Joyce says:

      Miss Diva,

      When you finish your Cento, I hope you will share.
      I’m going to start on mine using chapbooks from poets I know. I’m thinking that might be an interesting approach…hmm, I wonder if they will think so?
      ~Linda Joyce

  2. Luna says:

    Hey, I could do that! Maybe 🙂

  3. qualandar says:

    Reblogged this on Bleeding Heart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s