My renewed obsession with cento poetry is truly an obsession.
Obsession: an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.
Early in the month, I became so enthralled with this form again, even the April prompts for Brigit’s Flame seemed to flow perfectly with the emerging intent to create a collection solely dedicated to ‘patchworking’ together the words of great poets to create a story in verse. Working within the Act and Scene structure (not demanded by the writing prompt, only offered up for interpretation) has taken me to incredible new levels of personal challenge. Challenge! has been missing in my writing life for a while. I’m a challenge junkie, and withdrawals from such are sickening and painful.
Fiction was challenging me in all the wrong ways… I can’t yet articulate precisely what problems arose to bring my fiction writing goals to a screeching halt. Perhaps I may never gain the words to describe how inadequate I felt while trying to transfer the mental images surrounding, and passionate voices pouring from the fictional characters I love so much. The whole experience became so frustrating, so stifling, that I had to put all that work away … for a while. Who knows how long?
Once the twists and turns of cento were reintroduced to me, I did realize that fiction writing was presenting all the wrong challenges — I was working within the confines of an old vision, rather than a new. There was no room for reinterpretation, no vibrancy. Luckily, I suppose, the second I turned away from the story boards and piles of crumpled papers, there was the cento, vibrant and absolutely shimmering with limitless possibilities.
I haven’t yet sat down to examine the bizarre reality that I am indeed working within a form that demands the use of old works — many times read, interpreted, critiqued — works embody very specific thought processes and authoritative intent, and I am more comfortable with puzzling out and piecing together an entirely different narrative from these old works than I am with any other writing prospects just now. Abstract much?
I’ll think about all that later. Maybe.
All I know for certain — because it’s all I can really think about lately — is that a vision has taken over. A vision that is slowly, steadily becoming clearer and clearer, the more I read of great works that pushed the boundaries of 19th and 20th century poetic tradition. I read through and mine out lines from the likes of Eliot and Rich, and lesser known but brilliant Beat poets, and discover the fragments of the story I want to tell.
Act I and Act II are my contributions to the ongoing April contest for Brigit’s Flame, as well as my initial attempt to create something extremely different from any poetry project I have ever undertaken. Tell me what you think of the persona, the narration, the emerging story. Do you find it too abstract to gain an image of the narrator? Or, is it interesting enough to guess at where it all might end?