October 23, 2020

The Cento

street wall collage - Photo:PxHere


The cento is a poetry form that I used with students but that I haven't used myself or used as a prompt on Poets Online. "Cento" comes from the Latin word for “patchwork." Centos are sometimes called collage poems because they are made up of lines from poems by other poets. 

Poets often borrow lines from other writers. It might be an epigraph or the lines might be mixed with their own writing. It sounds like plagiarism and that was part of my point in using it with students. How can you take from other writers legitimately? In prose, we have citations and works cited, but in poetry, other than the epigraph, we don't always cite the source.

If I was to use "Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all" in my poem I might put it in quotes or italics, but I probably wouldn't drop in John Keats' name. But a true cento is composed entirely of lines from other sources. 

Early examples can be found in the work of Homer and Virgil. The cento evidently originated in ancient Greece. There are examples in Aristophanes's plays where lines have been taken from Aeschylus and Homer.  Roman poets, as early as the late second century, lifted lines from Virgil. It seems to me to be a bit of thievery.  

But borrowing can be a creative process. Even copyright law allows for reuse when the new use is "transformative."


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October 14, 2020

Global Poemic

India-based poet/curator VK Sreelesh and U.S.-based poet/curator Betsy Andrews invite poets the world over to contribute to Global Poemic: Kindred Voices on the Era of COVID-19

In this unprecedented era of extremity under Covid-19, these poets share stories that differ across nations and other structures and create a web across the poetry world. Poets can bear witness and share what we witness. 

Their guidelines are simple.

1) Please email 1 – 5 previously unpublished poems and a brief bio to curators@globalpoemic.com. The curators may also solicit poems from poets. Poems are accepted and published on an ongoing basis.

2) For poems in languages other than English, please provide an English translation. Both the original and the translation will be published if accepted.

3) We are looking for poems of any form that engage with this era of a global pandemic. We welcome poems that recognize the multifarious, complicated, messy nature of the human condition. We do not welcome, and will not publish, poems that peddle hatred or bigotry of any kind.


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October 5, 2020

Prompt: Aubade



An aubade is a morning love poem/song, though it is sometimes about lovers separating at dawn. If you search for aubades online, you will find many using that as a title that do not follow the morning-lovers motif. Since there is no fixed meter or rhyme for the form, there is usually no way to identify a poem easily as an aubade.

This month's model poem is one that I found that follows that original definition. What I find interesting in Dore Kiesselbach's "Aubade" is that the loved ones are a mother and child.

Aubade is a French word meaning "dawn serenade" that first appears in English in the 1670s. In English, it came to be used for a song or poem of lovers parting at dawn, and later it came to refer to songs sung in the morning hours. Today, we think of a serenade as a song sung in the evening, so a "morning serenade" is a bit of an oxymoron.

In earlier centuries, the aubade had an even narrower definition of being a lyric sung, said or addressed to a sleeping lover by the departing lover. That may be an idea for your own aubade this month.

We will be strict with our prompt and ask that you write a poem set in the morning and related to leaving a loved one - "leaving" and "loved one" are open to interpretations.



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September 28, 2020

An Anthology of Native Nations Poetry




It's interesting that when U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo was working on the Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, she and the other editors decided they needed to hear the whole collection.

"At one point in the editing, we decided to read the whole manuscript aloud," Harjo tells NPR's All Things Considered's Michele Martin. "That's how I revise, so that's what we did — is we took it into our mouths and took it to our bodies."

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through is an anthology of poetry from more than 160 poets, representing close to 100 indigenous nations.

Harjo sees the poetry in this new collection as an opportunity: "A poem opens up time, it opens up memory, it opens up place, the meaning of place, the meaning of ... our place in history," she says.







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September 27, 2020

Tips On Submitting to Literary Publications

Here are some tips from the Superstition Review's Founding Editor Patricia Murphy and Hayden's Ferry Review Supervising Editor Katherine Berta about submitting to literary magazines.






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September 23, 2020

Defining "Published"

Image by Janet Gooch from Pixabay


A poet new to the Poets Online website emailed me some questions about her submission which was recently published on the site. I thought her questions might also be those of other poets submitting to Poets Online or to other publications.

Can I submit my poem on Poets Online to other places? 
That depends on the publication's rules. Many print and online publishers now do not accept work that has been previously published, in print or online. Resubmitting poems for contests and for anthologies often waives that rule. Some publishers (Rattle is an example) do not consider self-publishing to blogs, message boards, or social media as a publication with respect to this rule. Always read the submission rules carefully for any submission.

Muse-Pie Press's policy is much stricter and doesn't consider previously published poems, stating that "if a poem is posted on a blog, website, or social-networking site, or another online journal, we consider it published."

If my poem is posted in the archive at Poets Online is it considered to be published?
As with the answer above, I would say that Yes, it is published and if included in a collection that should be acknowledged. If you're submitting again, research the submission guidelines.

Should I copyright my poems?
As noted on the Poets Online copyright page in greater detail, poems published on the site are protected under the U.S. Copyright laws regardless of whether they are registered with the copyright office. It is not necessary for the symbol © to appear beside a poem for that poem to be protected by copyright law. All work published on poetsonline.org are copyrighted one time only and then the copyright reverts to the authors.



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September 16, 2020

The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America

Today is the day in 1672 when America’s first published poet died. That was Anne Bradstreet.

She married Simon Bradstreet when she was about 16 and left England with him two years later, in 1630, as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony that eventually settled in Andover, Massachusetts.

Anne raised eight children. In her few free minutes each day, she wrote poetry for her family and close friends. 

It has been almost 400 years since she was writing but the idea of a mother writing in her precious free time is not an outdated story. We still fairly regularly hear of women who have written a novel or their poetry in those early morning, naptime, schooltime and late nigh quiet minutes.

Anne wrote about her husband, her children, and God. I like her later poems which were shorter and more about daily life. She wrote about how she feared childbirth, the fire that destroyed their home, her discontentment with a Puritan woman's life, and later, the death of her granddaughter. 

I wonder what she would have written if she felt free to write her innermost thoughts. I wonder if she did write those poems but that they were hidden away or destroyed by someone.

She didn't know it but her brother-in-law took her poems to England where they were published. The British publication was titled The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts (1650). The introduction notes that “These poems are the fruit but of some few hours, curtailed from sleep and other refreshments.” 

It was Anne's only poetry published in her lifetime and it was the first published work by a woman in America, and it was the only volume of her work published during her lifetime.

In Adrienne Rich’s foreword to an edition of Anne's poetry, Rich portrays Anne as a person and as a writer and as an early American feminists, as well as the first true poet in the American colonies.

I have written about Anne here before. It's not so much her poetry that interests me, but her life and the parts of it we will never know.



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