The Key – a cento

This is a Cento by Mary Jacob, created during a Surrealist Salon activity in which each person brought a book of poetry.  Each participant had a book. We generated page numbers at random, and everyone had to choose a line from a poem on that page in their own book. Then we passed the books around the circle, and repeated the process, so that each participant built up their own poem. When the books came back to their original owners, we took one last line and a title.

The Key


A drowsy kerosene lamp,

the white light, the vast freedom.

There was a door to which I found no key.

I exchange eyes with the Mad Queen.

If this fall in a time, or a land

trailing across the hog-backed mountain,

lock up your secrets with a drawer.

Poetry Quests

lizardmanDream daily. Your quest, should you choose to accept it, is to read and write something every day, finding some deeper level of significance, revealing use of  language, etc through each activity.

Read at least one poem every day. Read it 5-10 times.

Do the first activity on the list. The next day, either revise a prior piece of writing or do the next activity on the list in sequence. Repeat until you have done them all.

This should take you all summer. By the end, your pen should be smoking.

  1. interrogate an object
  2. project yourself into another person’s place
  3. describe the surface and depth of something or someone
  4. describe the same thing from different angles
  5. describe the same thing from the point of view of different people/animals/mythic creatures
  6. select an object in front of you and free associate
  7. select an object in front of you and free associate, then remove the initiating object from the poem
  8. grab snatches of overheard conversation
  9. put random  unconnected words together and see with the juxtaposition suggests
  10. listen to music and free write
  11. sit in one place and describe everything that surrounds you
  12. imagine a dialogue with someone close to you / imagined / famous
  13. interrogate a photograph or a painting
  14. set two or more objects together and see how they relate
  15. have the two objects talk to each other
  16. put an object into a landscape / context where you wouldn’t expect to find it
  17. dream while awake
  18. read other poet’s’ work, doing multiple readings for each poem, then write an imitation
  19. cento – grab lines from different poems and assemble them into a new poem
  20. flarf – do a web search for unrelated terms, grab phrases from the search results and assemble into a new poem
  21. take on the voice of a famous person
  22. take on the voices of two famous people or characters and have them talk to each other
  23. describe the beginning, middle and end of a process
  24. describe the end, middle and beginning of a process
  25. describe a place or an object over time
  26. explore the impact of world events in a personal context
  27. go on a journey
  28. encounter your opposite
  29. describe an intense personal memory
  30. play hope and fear against each other
  31. find nuance in everyday conversation
  32. look for patterns in water or other liquid
  33. picture your next transformation
  34. describe your last transformation
  35. write words you would say to someone who has gone
  36. write words they would say to you
  37. write a postcard to a famous person / stranger / ancestor / descendant / lover
  38. diary – write a realistic description of one whole day
  39. diary – write a surreal description of one whole day
  40. your past self meets your future self
  41. someone else’s past self meets their future self
  42. everyone you have ever loved is in the same room

Found Poem – Aging Animals

I haven’t put any new writing here for a while, because to be honest, I’m thinking of submitting some for publication and putting it on the blog would mean I can’t do that. Since the start of the year, I’ve written a total of 17 poems (including some flarf) and 9 completed flash fiction pieces. I was following links from the Poetry Society website and came across this list of words from the BBC Poetry Season, which practically wrote a poem by itself. Only a little vision and a dollop of glue was needed.

So here is an offering (still subject to revision).

Aging Animals

5 May 2013

Found poetry from BBC Poetry Season

I was searching for poems
by theme: aging animals, fur tinged in grey,
toothless and moulting like many
of the people on the bus these days.
Childhood celebrations fade
like Instamatic prints, hazed yellow.
Art beauty lifts us up, while conflict desire tears us down,
faith families pinion us to the ground,
make us dream of fantasy farewells and the futility
of hope in grief.

I’m not the only one; we are all searching.
Whatever gender, we all need
humour to trudge through our ideological journeys,
stamping snow off our boots only to end up
in the loneliness of judgement, in the loss
of love. All that is left is memories
of our own mortality
recollected in advance of death. That is the nature
of nostalgia – passion
tinged with regret. Sexual relationships and
wartime traditions, they all end the same way;
in words
that work their yearning.

We search for words in the absence that lurks
in the bottom
of the looking glass.