A to Z 2016 · Poetry

P is for “Patchwork”

Not on purpose, I swear, but P landed on a poetry prompt; a rather appropriate prompt, too:

A cento, Latin for “patchwork,” is a poem composed entirely of fragments and lines taken from other poems and/or written sources. Try creating your own patchwork poem by incorporating lines from various poems in a poetry anthology. For inspiration, read David Lehman’s cento in the New York Times.


Not owning a poetry anthology myself (all I have is a couple collections from single authors), I marched off to my handy-dandy library and checked out The Best of the Best American Poetry.

This exercise was much harder than I expected. It was basically like I was given a couple thousand lines of poetry and told to make a new poem out of them. I started with the number generator to try to make things a little more manageable, but nothing fit together poetically.

So instead, I just started flipping around until I found a line that I liked, and that worked with the line before it. Organic, rather than random. However, it is possible (likely?) that it still turned out more nonsense than poetry. Your pick.

(Numbers in parentheses are page numbers in the book. Of course.)



I started to explain, like one (146)
Turning inside as if in dream (53)
It was just an ordinary autumn twilight (111)
Delighted by an impairment of feeling (202)

I watch the light by which I see (118)
Tiny flakes of paint glitter (212)
We were guitar-players and inventors (2)
We look at stars and wonder why and where. (54)

Of course the world had changed (68)
The idea of our being large is inconceivable, (214)
Tangled and straight, and runs on beyond the page (125)
to make a difference. (132)

Off she goes into the material world (50)
frayed; worn and fragile (197)
so purely alive. (229)
like the sun and moon, visible but never reachable. (76)

Have pity on me a thousand years from now when we meet. (203)


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