Poetic Itch: The Cento or The Beauty of a Poetic Patchwork

Cognitive Itching

The great poet T.S. Eliot once remarked, or confessed perhaps, that “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal,” which might go some way towards explaining the poet’s device: the cento. Coined from the Latin word for ‘cloak’ it goes some way to revealing its nature as a poetic term for poems constructed out of other (pre-exisiting) poems. Think of it perhaps as a sort of literary method of recycling, the creating of the new out of the old. It is in essence still a creative venture, albeit one that requires less effort – or higher immaturity if Eliot is to be believed. This process of poetic revitalisation is nothing new. The ancient Greek verses of Homer were the biggest muse for aspiring and already famous authors in the Greek world.

Today though this technique has been honed to a new generation of uses. Perhaps the foremost among them and with…

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