Daydreams Through a Looking Glass — Collage Cento [Poetry Friday]

Happy Poetry Friday! Welcome, everyone! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

This month, Sara chose a cento as our Poetry Princess challenge. Not just a cento, but a cento collage, in which we would each choose one word from a set of lines Sara provided from poet Agha Shahid Ali and then find a bunch of other people’s poems who use that word, and then arrange some of those into a brand new poem. Why, Sara, why? Actually, see Sara’s post (linked below) to get a more thoughtful overview of the why and the how:>)

I hate to be whiny on the first week of school (for many of my northern teacher friends), but I HATED this. (But on the plus side, it forced me to write a poem that NEVER would have emerged from me without this exercise.)

Daydreams Through a Looking Glass

Here’s what I did. First, I chose the word “glass.” I wondered why other Poetry Princesses were jumping on boring words like “like” and “under.”

Then, on poets.org, I searched on the word “glass,” and I copied poem lines into a Word document. I didn’t like most of the lines, because I really wanted to do a kid-accessible poem this month. This gave me probably 20 lines or so? I didn’t take all the lines, by a long shot!

Then, in Google, I did repeated searches of “glass” and “[insert name of a children’s poet I really like here]” and came up with about 20 more lines.

I printed out my document of lines and did NOT print the source poets’ names. I didn’t want who wrote it to influence whether I used a line or not.

Then I played around with the lines to try to create a poem. As I did this, the wisdom of choosing “boring” words like “like” or “under” became extremely clear. While those words can be repeated and create a rhythm, a rap, a song, or a list poem, more unique words are very hard to use in every single freaking line without making a mess of my poem. This surreal little number is what I finally came up with–kind of a bizarre daydream poem.

Huh. I hope you won’t let my own dissatisfaction with this poem stop you from reading the other poets’ works. They came up with some real beauties!

Kelly is sitting this month out.
Liz (with breaking)

Sara  (with see)
Tanita  (with like)
Tricia (with under)
Non-poetry demands are keeping Andi away this month, but she’ll return :>)

Oh, and here’s the only other cento (I think) I’ve ever written–a title cento from a challenge at Tricia’s Miss Rumphius Effect blog TEN years ago. I had a blast with that one.

Click here to see all our previous Poetry Princesses collaborations. 

And for more poetry goodness, visit the Poetry Friday Roundup with educator/poet Carol Varsalona (she puts together all the wonderful seasonal poetry galleries) at Beyond Literacy Link.

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18 Responses

  1. You may have hated i,but I for one love the result. I especially love the opening two lines and the way you then reverse them to close. Very clever.

    1. Thanks, Sally. Though I’m not wild about the poem, it is always helpful to hear what specific things connected with a reader:>)

  2. What a process you undertook to create this very interesting poem, Laura! I agree with Sally on the reversal of lines in your poem. It makes a great ending.

  3. It does sound complicated and yet, out of chaos, one can see through that looking glass to a wonderful and dreamy poem! I like the repetition, too, Laura.

  4. Your’e too hard on yourself. You totally brought order from the chaos! And even though you fought against the repetition of “glass” I think that because glass is a thing through which you see other things—or have them reflected back to you—it absolutely works as a shout out to poetry itself too. Give it time. I think you’ll come to like this gem.

  5. Laura, I think you did an amazing job with “glass” ! Like others, I appreciate the craftmanship of reversing those first two lines for the ending… and you’ve reminded me of a poem I forgot I wrote. 🙂 I guess a book spine poem is really a form of cento, right? And: congratulations on JLG for your spring equations book! AND I am loving the art for your middle of the night book. Such loveliness, and just around the bend! xo

  6. Wow, I congratulate you on a fine effort, Laura — I’ve not heard of the cento form before, but it does seem to be a laborious process, even if the end product is quite satisfying and contemplative. I think I’ll stay away from the centos a little while longer and write a few more cheritas, as I did today!

  7. Like others that have commented I’m wowed! The thought that went into this creation is no small thing. I read Sara’s post first and then hurried over here to read another cento. Your poem does have a dreamlike quality to it. Such an interesting and challenging way to a new poem. I love how you’ve tied the ending to the beginning.

  8. I’m with Tanita. Your layout enhances this tremendously. I never even gave a thought to line breaks or layout.
    I think you chose a difficult word, but did a beautiful job with it. You found so many good examples of glass too. I especially love “they are looking down through the glass-bottom boats of heaven.”

  9. I agree with everyone that you did an amazing job with this poem, Laura! I loved reading about your process, too. You’ve inspired me to play with this form. Thank you!

  10. What a challenge! i enjoyed the dream like quality of your poem. It’s mysterious and mystical.

  11. What an intriguing array of glass you’ve created for us to peer into–it holds together, flows and creates a mysteriously layered poem. I also like how you repeated the first two lines at the end but also flopped them.

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