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About

The Form

Cento: A poetic form composed exclusively of lines from existing works.

The word "cento" is derived from the Greek kéntron (κέντρων): patchwork garment. A modern selection of exactly one hundred lines may come from a false etymological connection to the Italian word cento: one hundred.

The earliest known centos are from late antiquity. Classical & Renaissance centos generally use lines from Virgil or Homer. Modern centos often use lines from multiple poets, but vary in source material, citation style, and theme. See below for a list of examples.

The Approach

My centos incorporate lines from various forms of literature (poetry, prose, drama, non-fiction, music, & movies), various types of work (genre, form, movement), and various authors (era, language, & region, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, disability, etc.)

 

I cite both author and title of each work using endnotes to clearly identify the source of each line.

 

I capture full ideas within each line, prioritizing a quote’s integrity over faithfulness to line-breaks. I emphasize thematic over grammatical congruency between lines. I organize lines by length into aesthetically pleasing verse shapes, rather than by rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.

 

I take minor liberties with wording, punctuation, and capitalization to control flow & emphasis.

 

Full-length poems are exactly one hundred lines (including the title); verses and short poems are exactly ten lines. Each poem contains no more than one line from any given author.

 

The Poet

Anthony Walker is a full-time poet. He currently spends most of his work life reading, collecting & sorting lines, and writing centos. He writes in various settings and circumstances. He is from Madison, WI, but he is currently based in Maine.

Examples

Classical Antiquity

Faltonia Betitia Proba. Cento Vergilianus de Laudibus Christi. 4th century.

Hosidius Geta. Medea. 462.

Aelia Eudocia. Homeric Centos. 5th century.

 

Renaissance

Justus Lipsius. Politicorum Libri Sex. 1589.

Etienne de Pleure. Sacra Aeneis. 1618.

Alexander Ross. Vergili Evangelisantis Christiados. 1634.

 

Modern

John Ashbery. “To a Waterfowl.” Locus Solus, Volume 1, Issue 2. 1961.

John Ashbery. “The Dong with the Luminous Nose.” Wakefulness. 1998.

Peter Gizzi. Ode: Salute to the New York School, 1950-1970. Letter Machine Editions. 2012.

Simone Muench. Wolf Centos. Sarabande. 2014.

 

Online

Simone Muench. “Wolf Cento.” Academy of American Poets. 2011.

Mary Dalton. “Invitation Cards.” The Malahat Review. Autumn 2012.

Stephanie Young. “Cento For Love.” Poetry Foundation. April 3, 2014.

Emily Berry. “Freud’s War.” Poetry Foundation. June 2015.

Kate Daniels. “She-Poets Cento.” Plume. August 2015.

George McKim. “Cento – farewell, my kin, my mother’s children.” The Ilanot Review. Winter 2016.

Sarah Gambito. “Cento.” American Poetry Review. May/June 2016.

Nicole Sealey. “Cento for the Night I Said, ‘I Love You’.” PEN America. August 29, 2017.

Linda Bierds. “Lepidopteran.” Poetry Magazine. 2017.

Erin Murphey. “Your Mother’s Maiden Name is Not a Secret.” Jet Fuel Review. Spring 2018.

Cameron Awkward-Rich. “Cento between the Ending and the End.” Academy of American Poets. August 30, 2018.

Jamila Woods. “On Naming Yourself (A Cento).” Poetry Foundation. 2022.

 

Anthologies

The Cento: a Collection of Collage Poems. Edited by Theresa Malphrus Welford. Red Hen Press. 2011.

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