The Cento of Attention #NaPoWriMo

© N Nazir 2021

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine 1
feel the future dissolve in a moment 2
Sometimes a piece of sun 3
says everything 4
And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world 5

And his soul is seasoned, his soul 6
who comes back to the dust at your feet 7
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat. 8

I saw a sugary pyramid 9
in a puddle of fairytale silver 10
The drunkenness of things being various 11
that sultry afternoon 12

Though there are torturers in the world 13
the world offers itself to your imagination 14
The world is full of paper 15
and is infinitely alive 16
to make love in war and war in love 17

So imagine me there 18
in a rising wind 19
glistening like an orange split open 20
on the edge of the night. 21

© N Nazir 2022

NaPoWriMo Prompt: And now – our final (but still optional!) prompt. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a cento. This is a poem that is made up of lines taken from other poems. If you’d like to dig into an in-depth example, here’s John Ashbery’s cento “The Dong with the Luminous Nose,” and here it is again, fully annotated to show where every line originated. A cento might seem like a complex undertaking – and one that requires you to have umpteen poetry books at your fingertips for reference – but you don’t have to write a long one. And a good way to jump-start the process is to find an online curation of poems about a particular topic (or in a particular style), and then mine the poems for good lines to string together. You might look at the Poetry Foundation’s collection of love poems, or its collection of poems by British romantic poets, or even its surprisingly expansive collection of poems about (American) football.

To find out more information or to take part, please visit

1. Wild Geese, Mary Oliver
2. Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye
3. We Have Lost Even, Pablo Neruda
4. Silence, Mourid Barghouti
5. Snow, Louis MacNeice
6. A Man in His Life, Yehuda Amichai
7. Happiness, Jane Kenyon
8. From Blossoms, Li-Young Lee
9. Sweetness Always, Pablo Neruda
10. Tell Me About It, Ruth Padel
11. Snow, Louis Macneice
12. Strawberries, Edwin Morgan
13. Though There Are Torturers in the World, Michael Cody
14. Wild Geese, Mary Oliver
15. Stationery, Agha Shahid Ali
16. Sweetness Always, Pablo Neruda
17. A man in His Life, Yehuda Amichai
18. Eurydice, Carol Ann Duffy (from The World’s Wife)
19. The Layers, Stanley Kunitz
20. Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan, Moniza Alvi (from Carrying My Wife)
21. Brink, Carol Ann Duffy (from Rapture)

*In some cases, I have used more than one line from the same poem, I couldn’t resist. A lot of the above poems can be found in an anthology called Staying Alive which comes as a trilogy of books. It’s wonderful to read, I highly recommend it.

*If I’d had more time, I would have asked permission from some of you fine poets to be able to use lines from poems of yours I love. Perhaps I’ll do this in the future. What a lovely collaborative form. It feels like you’re the director compiling a narrative using different artist’s work. It’s so cool.

*I have a habit of snapping photos of any poems that strike me whilst perusing bookshops or libraries so this came in supremely handy as I had a whole bunch ready to reference on my phone for this prompt. Still, I am pleased it’s the last prompt of the month – YAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!! Challenge accepted and demolished. Thank you, NaPoWriMo!

*Thank you so much to everyone for reading and commenting. It is always wonderful to know your thoughts and I will surely reply and return the favour in the coming days. Much love to you all ❤

21 thoughts on “The Cento of Attention #NaPoWriMo

  1. Ha! Aren’t you a polite director!! And such a smooth editor. This one clearly sounds like it was a ready-made poem. Brilliantly done. And why polite? Because – as you will see or have already – I used a line from your poem WITHOUT ASKING YOU AS SINGLE THING!! A line snatched here, another there, and you’ve got a poem… But at least I acknowledge the poets with links. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, MM! It was serendipitous that I had a bunch of poems on my phone literally ready for this prompt. I just read your cento and will comment properly soon, but I thought it was wonderful! And you would of course have my permission anyway! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Ain! Lovely to hear from you. Ha ha! I’m glad you liked it and yes it does take a lot of sifting through poems! It does mean you get to read a lot of great poems though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sunra, I love this! ❤️ I can imagine the hard work involved in this.
    Congratulations on successful completion of the challenge. I did not leave a comment on the last couple of poems because I know you have been very busy. Know that I love your poetry, you are supremely talented. ❤️

    There is absolutely no pressure to reciprocate by reading my posts. You can pick up reading when you have more time. Much love. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, dear Punam! You’ve touched me with this beautiful comment ❤ Know that I love your poetry too (not least your cool prompts) and I look forward to catching up on it very soon! Xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “YAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!! Challenge accepted and demolished”
    you did indeed!

    you really like to experiment, that is something that we share and something i admire. you picked some great and eye-twisting lines and blended them together very well, an enjoyable poem. and congrats on completing the napowrimo. i haven’t done poetry month in many, many years

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! Thank you, Phillip! “eye-twisting lines” – love that! Appreciated. It’s such a cool way to write a poem, I recommend it so much. It’s only the second time I’ve done this challenge however. Thank goodness it’s only once a year! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “It’s such a cool way to write” agreed, i’ve written a few in my day, not that different from a cut-out, i once wrote a poem made entirely out of headlines from tabloid magazines, yes, doing the poetry month is tough, i’ve tried it a few times, and only completed it once… congrats again for demolishing it =)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. much love to you, dear Sunra. A tremendously well done job. What a delight to have read many (not all, I know) of your lovely words in one continuous challenge. I am totally smitten by you. And this one is no different, I tell you. Your curated lines are a joy to read. Thanks. Keep going, dear one. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around. I bless you and wish you miracles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Selma!! Thank you so much for your support! It was a delight to read your work too and I shall enjoy reading the rest of your responses soon. Wonderful to know someone like you in the blogosphere ❤ I reflect back to you your good wishes x


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