Sunday, October 23, 2011

Permutations and Centos

A Cento is a collage poem made of lines taken from other poems -- such as a sonnet composed of lines from fourteen of Millay's sonnets, or Shakespeare's -- or from newspaper articles or television advertisements or whatever. Here's a three-line sample from a Cento, "Patchwork," composed by Joanna Migdal to celebrate women poets.

   I dwell in Possibility.                                              (Emily Dickinson, #657)
   Yes, for that most of all.                                        (Denise Levertov, “The Secret”)
   It’s four in the afternoon. Time still for a poem.   
                                                                        (Phyllis McGinley, “Public Journal”) 

One recent day sitting at my computer, waiting on telephone-hold, I began to explore the idea of a Cento using my blog-titles.  I printed a list of titles, selected some I liked, and began to arrange them. Eventually my chosens shrunk to five (from July, August, and September).  Though it seemed easy to do the arranging in my head, I also went to a text permutation generator and asked it to list all of the 5! = 120 possible permutations of the five titles. Whle it was a tedious procedure, reviewing the complete list was also helpful -- suggesting possibilities I'd overlooked.  This one is my favorite:

     The wind, counting
     A thousand and fifty-one waves. 
     Mathematical theorems tornadoing --
     The square root of Everest, 
     This plane of earthly love.    

When objects are near one another, even if they are very different, their proximity prods us to look for -- and often find -- a relationship among them. Such is the secret of a Cento.

If if sounds like fun to you, please do your own experimentation with my blog titles and create a Cento.  Submit it as a comment to the blog.  (Titles for January - September, 2011 are found here; titles for 2010 are found here).   And, thanks in advance for your participation.

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