I find writing centos a very absorbing process. I’m a crossword puzzle fiend thanks to my former bookstore boss, so drafting centos definitely appeals to that part of my brain. And I can see where working with centos could inspire you and get you started on a poem entirely your own.
But what’s better, centos really focus you on all the smaller moving parts of a poem. It’s like taking apart that engine in shop class to see how it works, and then putting it all back together, only now you’re the engineer and can design a whole new machine.
And working with single-poet centos forces you to engage with his/her poems in a completely unfamiliar and illuminating way. Recurring themes, word choice patterns, images, even something as basic as blocks of syntax — you live within the poems more through your study of them.
I feel particularly conscious of this because of my Lowell/Bishop reading project. As much as I felt they differed when I began is how much I can see now that they share. It’s misleading at first because Lowell wrote so much, and his style and concerns changed much more than Bishop’s over the years. I found writing my Bishop cento initially much more challenging. But patterns have emerged, and I’ve already begun the Lowell/Bishop combined cento. I’m excited to see how that turns out.
For now, below is the Bishop cento; it will remain up until the next, and last, cento is up, probably Friday or Saturday. Many thanks to Carolee and Jill over at ReadWritePoem for coming up with this challenge!