From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets. Though poets often borrow lines from other writers and mix them in with their own, a true cento is composed entirely of lines from other sources. Early examples can be found in the work of Homer and Virgil. Modern centos are often witty, creating irony or humor from the juxtaposition of images and ideas.

Marie Elena’s Patchwork:


I stroll along serenely,
And it pushes me into certain corners –
A place where the sidewalk ends,
Lost as a light is lost at night.

Never mind silent fields,
Knowing how way leads on to way,
Into a daybreak which is wondrously clear
Though it be darkness there,

Long walks at night –
That’s what’s good for the soul.


Taken from the works of Bukowski, Silverstein, Frost, Neruda, Teasdale, Angelou, Dickenson


Walt’s Cento:


Silence will fall like dews on white silence below,
devils of red Comanches are hot on the track.
Gold threads whistling through my mother’s hand.
The yellow leaves begin to fade.
The nuts are getting brown,
soon to let us walk in the white snow.
Leave no black plume as a token; black is the clear glass
and the sharp black shadow of a seated man
with lean and yellow fingers, points me out.
She strikes a happy tear away and broke the crimson seal.
Brown waves of fog toss up to me,
and all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine me out again.
“How do you like your blue-eyed boy?”
“With gold seals hanging from his watch
and a blue coat with silver buttons”.


~ Culled from the poems of Joaquin Miller, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Davidson, Edgar Allen Poe, William Rose Benét, Elinor Wylie, Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, Steven Vincent Benét, e.e. cummings, Amy Lowell, Harold Munro and Walt Whitman.

82 thoughts on “IN-FORM POET – CENTO

  1. Great centos, you two. I always feel very diffident pinching other poet’s lines. . Here’s are two little ones:

    Cento of lines from Philip Levine

    The wind, who leaves nothing to chance
    spoke the incomprehensible syllable
    of wind, giving off her angers and sighs.
    Who knows or cares,
    except these last leaves
    breathing the first rains.
    Tomorrow will be different:
    a perfect calm

    The lines I used, without addition from me, were:

    who leaves nothing to chance. from A theory of Prosody
    the wind spoke in the incomprehensible syllable of wind, from Another Song
    the earth goes on giving off her angers and sighs and who knows or cares except these breathing the first rains, from Clouds
    a perfect calm from Belle Isle
    tomorrow will be different and last leaves from Everything


    Minute after minute swims away
    the sky and the river’s blue-grey.
    The sun has come out and everything is calm.
    This is peace and contentment,
    the winter’s over and it’s time to play.

    The lines all come from poems in Cope’s collection “Two Cures for Love”, from By the Round Pond, In the Rhine Valley, 30th December, The Orange, The Month of May.

  2. In light of lightening up, today I shall Shel.

    Where the
    Sidewalk Ends

    They say, “Come up with somethin’ new
    and everyone will buy it.”
    What do I do?
    What do I do?
    Some dummy built this pencil wrong.
    Oh, the blithery, blathery pirate
    he turned there in the sky
    and sailed away to try and find
    a white cloud floating by.
    I’ve made me a moon-catchin’ net,
    and I’m goin’ huntin’ tonight.
    It wasn’t quite day and it wasn’t quite night
    ’cause the sun and the moon were both in sight
    so please get your rags
    and your polishing jars,
    just give me a happy middle
    and a very happy start.

    Have you been to The Land of Happy?
    Let’s have one day for the girls and boyses
    when you can make the grandest noises.
    Thinking you can just ain’t enough.
    I tripped on my shoelace and I fell up.

    Oops. We’ve been caught by the quick-digesting Gink
    since they’ve put a brassiere on the camel
    so we’re sittin’ here tryin’ to think.
    Quick! (I suppose) Make a loop,
    Use him as a Hula Hoop.
    Let it rain on my skin,
    it can’t get in –
    I’m waterproof.
    I wraps my hair
    around my bare,
    and down the road I goes.

    I cannot go to school today,
    but I must admit I lied. (It’s rather sad to say.)
    I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
    mashed potatoes on the side.

    Put something silly in the world
    That ain’t been there before.

    And that, my dear, is why most poems are made.

    Without turnin’ on the light, Mirror, mirror on the wall…
    (This poem took fourteen years to write –
    Cause I’m just one inch tall).

    (stolen entirely from the poems of Shel Silverstein from the four titles found in my title)

  3. Busy, singing

    All Nature seems at work
    Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul
    When wind and hawk encounter
    A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf
    Along the dripping leafless woods
    I sometimes search the grassy knolls
    Addressing them, by them again addressed
    O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer
    Like the full moon and the whippoorwill
    Seven blue swallows divide the air
    Penetrated by the noise of crickets
    Now darkgreen the leaves are full of metaphors
    I move at the heart of the world
    I keep myself busy, singing
    My song of roots and noses

    Lines taken from Coleridge, Whitman, Cohen, Hughes, Morris, Carroll, Millay, Yeats, Olson, Nemerov, Bly, Layton, Dickey, Atwood


    My soul wandered, happy, sad, unending
    Upon her silken avalanche of down
    And there were roads no map would ever master,
    Among the stars that have a different birth
    Into howling gales or onto
    Trembling cold, in ghastly fear
    Now all is bleak–the pathway covered with snow
    It is like the light coming through blue stained glass.

    – from Pablo Neruda, Charles Baudelaire, Donald Justice, Percy Bysshe Shelly, Gary Lenhart, William Blake, Wilhelm Muller and Joyce Kilmer

  5. “To find out if I might love”

    When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
    of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
    to find out if I might love,
    I go on forever, dear love.
    For nothing less than thee
    would I have broke this happy dream.

    To find out if I might love,
    I go on forever. I whispered,
    ‘I am too young,’ and then, ‘I am old enough’;
    wherefore I threw a penny
    to find out if I might love.

    My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
    to prove it fresh from the river
    to find out if I might love,
    I go on forever, dear love.

    For men may come and men may go,
    but when I saw thou saw’st my heart,
    when every thing that is sincerely good
    and perfectly divine,
    with Truth, and Peace,
    and Love shall ever shine

    For nothing less than thee
    would I have broke this happy dream.
    If ever two were one, then surely we.

    To find out if I might love,
    I go on forever.

    Poets: Keats, Dunne, Yeats, Bradstreet, Browning, Tennyson, Milton

  6. Song of Winter

    Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
    Come change — and human fate!
    The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,
    the joyless winter day

    Announced by all the trumpets
    of the sky, Arrives the snow
    The cold wind burns my face, and blows
    its frosty pepper up my nose.

    The Frost performs its secret ministry,
    unhelped by any wind.
    Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
    thou art not so unkind.

    By her just standard, which is still the same:
    unerring Nature, still divinely bright.
    The summer hath his joys,
    and winter his delights;

    Lines borrowed from: Browning, Burns, Campion, Coleridge, Emerson, Frost, Pope, Shakesphere, Stevenson

      • Actually, Andrea’s comments were awaiting “approval”, a glitch in the system. If anyone has these types of difficulties please do as Andrea did, and contact us and we will resolve any problems, as in this case, a simple fix.

        To restate our position here at POETIC BLOOMINGS, We are an OPEN forum and include poets of all ages and skill levels. Please refer to the Welcome to POETIC BLOOMINGS tab at the top of the page. We do have a simple editorial policy of which all poets should be aware. Some political and religious comments will be tolerated as long as presented in good taste and do not infringe on the rights or beliefs of others. Any decision to remove offending piece will be at the discretion of Marie and Walt, and those decisions will be final.We are proud to say, we’ve never had to invoke such a decision. Thanks you Andrea for the notice.

  7. I really thought this form would bring about some chopped poetry. Not so at all. You all patch together beautifully! (And yes, I said what I meant. 😉 )

  8. I have never written a Cento, but what fun I had giving it a go! I do love PB, a highlight for me each and (almost) everyday as I read the beautiful creations of others and try my hand, too! Thanks Walt & Marie for the time & love you put into the site!


    I’m in the middle of my life.
    I see it as through a crowd,
    from a bad angle,
    and the show continues.
    I am trapped in this kitchen,
    kindness a grater
    that will not come clean.
    The day shrinks back from me.
    The petals of the fireweed fall
    where they fall.

    You have marked me
    And I wish I could escape
    the crush of it
    Regret has many offices
    Do not decode these signs of mine
    Prayers inside are tangled in twigs
    They cannot move, they’re stranded
    Undeciphered let my song
    rewire circuits wired wrong
    A chert blade no bigger
    than a white lie
    I want to be as thin
    as the scars on my wrist
    I have been lying here too long
    to distinguish war from suicide

    Listen: you are the meantime
    It’s more like that familiar wish
    to become a man
    when you are, in fact,
    a tributary
    And lilies at the edge.
    Tigers in the lane eyeing you.
    You wanted to be that brash.
    Death-defying gladioli line the Colosseum

    It would be difficult for a pagan,
    never mind a communist
    to love you according to the season.
    Time is how one thing
    becomes another.
    Trade one noise for another.
    Must there always
    be something for which we are
    prepared to lose everything.
    At first nothing will happen
    to us and later on it will
    happen to us again.
    And the whole time
    I can’t stop thinking …

    I have heard what happens
    when you step too far
    I’m blindsided, locked
    in a fisted dream,
    Painting a door
    in the brunted
    cell of my life
    The world is turning
    me into evening.

    (a cento – lines gathered from the poetry of Canadian poets: Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Bachinsky,Lorri Neilsen Glenn, Jacob Scheier,S.McDonald,Laurie MacFayden,sheri-d wilson,Matthew Tierney, rob mclennan, Leonard Cohen, Karen Solie,Jeremy Dodds,Alice Major, Nancy Mackenzie)

  10. Pingback: Prompts: Friday Freeforall « Margo Roby: Wordgathering

  11. A Cento

    Meadowlark, when you sing it is as if
    the voices of light enter the body.
    Angels gather. Harps sound
    as two sweetly scintillant
    Venuses, unextinguished by the sun.
    And I sink on a seat in the shade
    of a lime tree in blossom.
    The bird sings. Its feather shine
    east against the source of the sun
    in an hour before the sun’s going down.

    (Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou,
    Edgar A. Poe, Amy Lowell, Wallace Stevens,
    Robert Duncan)

  12. Entertaining the Angel

    If metaphor/were sufficient,
    if every dream were a tattoo,
    a few of the remaining cherubim
    [would] burn twelve red lanterns
    and dragons [would be] drawn in azure ink.

    I don’t know somehow it seems sufficient…

    Title from Renee Ashley. Content: Lois Marie Harrod – The Mist, Grace Cavalieri – Blue-Green Spirit, Stephen Dobyns – The Gardener, Yusef Komunyakaa – Ambush, Elinor Wylie – The Puritan’s Ballad, A. R. Ammons – Gravelly Run


    We saw beyond our seeming
    Your beauty is a thunder.
    And found my senses lost
    We knew and lied our knowing
    As Winter sunshine, a new
    Sure as a Summer breeze
    I am the Rhyme
    My spirit is a surge of open seas
    How to find my soul a home
    Or if my dream was true,
    Where water is not thirsty
    A hive of honey bees
    The sunfelt warmth.
    To cure their hearts of stone
    The day, silver striped
    And the trade winds
    soft through the sighing trees
    Trunks of secret words.

    Title and content all from a “Maya Angelou Book of Poems.”

    That was too much fun! She’s one of my favorites from when I first started loving poetry in high school. Such sweet poeming memories!

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