Daily Archives: 7 November 2021

November verse 3.5: Cento

According to poets.org:

the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form composed entirely of lines from poems by other poets.

You might think the name has something to do with the Latin for 100, and maybe it does, remotely, but it is actually a Latin word in its own right. According to my trusty Gepp & Haigh Latin dictionary, its first meaning is ‘a piece of patchwork, used for clothing, or as a fireproof curtain or blanket, or as a quilt, etc’.

Here’s a cento made, not from other poems, but from the program description of films I’ve got tickets for in this year’s Sydney Film Festival:

At the movies: a cento
Impressed by Einstein, 
a Swiss businessman and a Russian oligarch
are compelled to
violence, incompetence and oppression.
There are death threats,
more direct and more stridently critical,
a timely reminder of 
the role of individuals in an autocratic state.
An uncommunicative young woman
becomes increasingly desperate as she manoeuvres to keep
slapstick humour and deep emotion
with integrity and grit.
They begin to make sense of
life and death in the nuclear age.