April is National Poetry Month: Let's Celebrate Writers and Writing


On this first day of April, Negative Capability Press would like to celebrate our authors – and use their work to create a Cento. 

A Cento is legitimate p̶l̶a̶g̶i̶a̶r̶i̶s̶m̶– I don’t like that word – for it has, I think, negative implications – and there is something magic and wonderful about writing a cento.

A Cento is a collage poem in which lines are borrowed from other sources. 

I would like to mention a book that is a collection of centos:  The Cento, a Collection of Collage Poems, edited by Theresa Malphrus Welford.   In the “Introduction,” she says:

Writing a cento may be a kind of extension of the act of reading, a way to prolong the pleasure.  What makes the cento so appealing a poetic for—and one with increasing popularity—is the opportunity to revel in quotations and yoke them strategically for a variety of effects beginning with surprise and humor and ending sometimes in clarity and vision.” 

So let me see if I can celebrate a number of our authors and invite you to celebrate their work with me.

I am picking books at random – partly because my shelf of Negative Capability authors used to be neatly alphabetized – but now is rather higgledy-piggledy.  Since the proof of Barbara Henning’s new book just arrived this afternoon, I shall begin with a line from A Day Like Today and gather 10 lines.  Choose one of our lines and write a poem – or pick 10 books off your shelf and write a cento as we have done below.

There’s a lot more to say;
my longing wears your name,
breath damned up into being.
After all, it’s early November, late afternoon
away from city lights, from fog or smog;
I called to you, waived my arms
coaxing the clouds to step
with Vermeer-like light
on a frozen stream—
the work of the heart.

1. Barbara Henning, “I Close My Book.” A Day Like Today
2. Michael Bassett, “Alone on Interstate 95.” Hatchery of Tongues
3. Maureen Alsop, “Inviable.”  Later, Knives & Trees
4. Lissa Kiernan, “Witness.”  Two Faint Lines In The Violet
5. John Brugaletta, “Exposed,” With My Head Rising Out Of The Water
6. Barry Marks, “I Saw Death In Your backseat.”  Dividing By Zero
7. Philip Kolin, “The Key.”   Departures
8. Betty Spence, “Light Effects.” Traces of Presence
9. Charles Bernard Rodning. Waitin’ ‘round the bend
10. Robert Gray, “Building Kingdoms.” Jesus Walks The South Land.

Thanks to our authors for these lines.