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.
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.
Dream 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.
- interrogate an object
- project yourself into another person’s place
- describe the surface and depth of something or someone
- describe the same thing from different angles
- describe the same thing from the point of view of different people/animals/mythic creatures
- select an object in front of you and free associate
- select an object in front of you and free associate, then remove the initiating object from the poem
- grab snatches of overheard conversation
- put random unconnected words together and see with the juxtaposition suggests
- listen to music and free write
- sit in one place and describe everything that surrounds you
- imagine a dialogue with someone close to you / imagined / famous
- interrogate a photograph or a painting
- set two or more objects together and see how they relate
- have the two objects talk to each other
- put an object into a landscape / context where you wouldn’t expect to find it
- dream while awake
- read other poet’s’ work, doing multiple readings for each poem, then write an imitation
- cento – grab lines from different poems and assemble them into a new poem
- flarf – do a web search for unrelated terms, grab phrases from the search results and assemble into a new poem
- take on the voice of a famous person
- take on the voices of two famous people or characters and have them talk to each other
- describe the beginning, middle and end of a process
- describe the end, middle and beginning of a process
- describe a place or an object over time
- explore the impact of world events in a personal context
- go on a journey
- encounter your opposite
- describe an intense personal memory
- play hope and fear against each other
- find nuance in everyday conversation
- look for patterns in water or other liquid
- picture your next transformation
- describe your last transformation
- write words you would say to someone who has gone
- write words they would say to you
- write a postcard to a famous person / stranger / ancestor / descendant / lover
- diary – write a realistic description of one whole day
- diary – write a surreal description of one whole day
- your past self meets your future self
- someone else’s past self meets their future self
- everyone you have ever loved is in the same room
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).
5 May 2013
Found poetry from BBC Poetry Season http://www.bbc.co.uk/poetryseason/
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;
that work their yearning.
We search for words in the absence that lurks
in the bottom
of the looking glass.