Imitation is the very best type of flattery. All artistic individuals, whether or not they be writers, artists, dancers, singers or actors, know that. Take into consideration the performers on a TV present like “The Voice,” who typically carry out the tune of a decide they’re concentrating on. Typically, it’s imitation that will get them on the group of their desires. It’s the similar with poetry.

When you resolve to write down a poem, it usually feels as in case you are on a quest for the proper phrase, the proper picture, or the proper thought. In some ways a poem is a treasure and the writing of a poem is a harmful treasure hunt. You by no means know what you may occur upon when you begin writing.

Let’s check out a type of poem known as the cento. Cento is a 16th-century Latin phrase, which means “patchwork.” A cento is crafted from “stolen” or discovered sources. Every line in a cento is taken from a supply and placing these traces collectively weaves them right into a patchwork of traces.

Many individuals consider the cento as a type of “collage-poem.” A collage is made by combining photographs, texts and textures of various mediums and sizes. Equally, a cento is created by patching collectively many discovered traces to create a poem.

In fact, stealing is horrible and each artist should give credit score the place credit score is due, so on the backside of each cento is a observe the place the author lists the names of his or her supply texts within the order that they seem within the traces of the poem.

To your cento, you can be utilizing the At Residence part to create a poem of 5 to seven traces. Your traces may be phrases from articles, headlines, quotes and even picture captions. To chop and paste your cento, comply with the steps under.

The hunt

Hunt, or skim via the paper for traces that talk to you. Possibly your eye will choose a sentence that makes use of fascinating language, like a vibrant verb or a compelling adjective; possibly you can see a sentence that features a description of a picture you admire, or possibly you can see a line that refers to one thing that resonates with you, like a point out of a season, a colour or an emotion. Maintain searching to your treasured traces. You could have already got a subject in thoughts, or your subject might come to you upon getting your traces lower out and you actually look at them.

Maintain observe

Although this poem will probably be your personal creation, the traces will not be. Take out a bit of paper, or you need to use a laptop computer or telephone and write every line down after which write down the writer of the article that line got here from. You’ll need this later.

Thieve (or Reduce)

If you’re working from the print newspaper, lower out the traces you could have discovered and place them on a flat floor. Or copy them to a doc in your telephone.


Have a look at your particular person traces and begin taking part in round with their order, as you stretch them out like snippets of yarn on a desk or flooring. Might one line bounce off one other? In that case, put that pair to the aspect. Maintain discovering connections. Think about these stolen traces to be threads you’re weaving collectively in which means, picture or emotion.


After you have laid out your traces, take into consideration the way to put them collectively. If you’re nonetheless deciding what your poem is about, maybe give attention to an emotion, a spot or a picture. Your subject is as much as you. Let these borrowed phrases spark one thing artistic inside you.

While you’re prepared, resolve what line you wish to begin with and what line you wish to finish with. Laying these traces out as a body will get you motivated. Then, begin laying out your different traces. If one thing appears unsuitable, transfer it round, or lower it. You could even wish to search for one other line to substitute for it.


Paste your traces on paper or on a doc, and you’ve got your cento. Ensure to fastidiously write out, or kind your sources.

Congratulations. You’ve got now written a cento with the beneficiant assist of others!

Sources for Leah Umansky’s cento, drawn from the Nov. eight subject of At Residence: At Residence cowl, Courtney Rubin, Anna Goldfarb, Tara Parker-Pope, Joseph Burns, Anna Goldfarb, Anna Goldfarb

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