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1) Please email 1 – 5 previously unpublished poems and a brief bio to curators@globalpoemic.com.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.

Visit our website at poetsonline.org

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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