Thursday, August 20, 2009


Back in July, poet Kiki Petrosino played Cento Bingo with a class she was teaching. See the results, including her notes, below.

By the way, if you haven't checked it out yet, Kiki's book Fort Red Border is fantastic!

Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoy the new Centos.

--The Cento Bingo Eds.


Cento Bingo via Kiki Petrosino

The five “won” lines from the Cento Bingo game we played were:

1. “Sitting in this chair.” (Mary Ruefle, “Darke Body of Clowdes”)
2. “And so, do you see? Do you see what I gave up to be with you?” (Jenny Boully, “Actually, she is telling about how a dwelling becomes empty when she moves in,” from One Love Affair)
3. “Look at my hoof in the muck.” (Kaethe Schwehn, “Below the Snow Line”)
4. “It took my mind a long time to accept what I saw.” (Brigit Pegeen Kelly, “Windfall”)
5. “Voyaging into the rotten ruby of the night became a contest of freedom and bad logic.” (Anne Carson, “Each,” Autobiography of Red)

Each student then received a non-poetry book and gathered five lines from this source, which were then added to the cento, making a 10-line poem.

I then selected the following lines to be the first and last lines of the poems-in-progress. Given this, I asked the students to reorganize the central 10-liner:

1. “What you have heard is true.” (Carolyn Forché, “The Colonel”)
2. “What you have heard is true.” (Carolyn Forché, “The Colonel”)

Two additional lines were randomly drawn to make the poems sonnet-length:

1. (crazily enough) “What you have heard is true.” (Carolyn Forché,
“The Colonel”)
2. “And empty grows every bed.” (John Berryman, “Dream Song 1”)

What follows are three new poems that resulted from this method.
Students were free to re-break the lines, so some of them are longer or shorter than 14.


#1. By Adrienne Greenwald

What you have heard is true.
I will not date a man who
is married.
Murky. Not good.
Look at my hoof in the muck.
Just put your hands up to your
ears and go la la la la la.
Sitting in this chair.
Voyaging into the rotten ruby of
the night became a contest of freedom
and bad logic.
And empty grows every bed.
What you have heard is true.
It took my mind a long time to
accept what I saw.
If I ever get to Florida, I’ll kick his ass.
And so, do you see? Do you see what I
gave up to be with you?
A man has got to have his priorities.
What you have heard is true.

(Adrienne’s supplementary source was He’s Just Not that Into You, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tucillo)


#2. By Denise Behrens

What you have heard is true:
Voyaging into the rotten ruby of the night
became a contest of freedom and bad logic.
What golden candlesticks!
“And so, do you see? Do you see what I gave up to be with you?
God’s icy wind will blow
and empty grows every bed.”

Sitting in this chair, it took my mind a long
time to accept what I saw.
“Leave me, Francis.
Leave me alone.
It is a bitter night, and I have no
fire here. Look at my hoof in the muck:
What you have heard is true!”

(Denise’s supplementary text was The Crucible by Arthur Miller.)


#3. By Mike Noto

What you have heard is true.
She missed him terribly now.
She only thought of the name
on rare occasions.
“Look at my hoof in the muck…
Sitting in this chair
It took my mind a long time
To accept what it saw:
Voyaging into the rotten ruby
Of the night became a contest
Of freedom and bad logic
And empty grows every bed.
And so, do you see?
What you have heard is true.
Do you see what I gave up to be with you?
I never felt threatened
during my short stay.
I was eager to make
a good impression.”
She was very strong…
What you have heard is true.

(Mike’s supplementary text was Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake)

Saturday, March 29, 2008



Shall I uncrumple this
much crumpled me
turning like gray leaves

blue on the floor like
peacock’s wings

like cathedral glass
so like delicious

plums in a frost-filled
jar in the icebox?

Give me hemlock
I breathed so gentle
so sweet so cold



I'm going out to fetch
the little calf
standing by its mother

It's so young
it totters when I
shoot it with father’s gun

You come too



I like a look—of agony
because I know it’s you
Parents don’t sham compulsion
Nor simulate throw

up Eyes glaze death—
impossible to feign
The thickening of tongue?


Notes on Mash-Ups:

When writing these poems I had in mind what TS Eliot wrote about the playwright, Philip Massinger: Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.

Some of these poems are attempting to be the antithesis, not only to what Eliot said, but, as is the case in the Frost poem, to the original as well.


Eric Berge lives and writes in the desert. You can see his blog at http://www.edberge.com/.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Five Hundred Years

Green come the shoots, aye April in the branches
Dance, shoot. And many I have loved watching. Some
By countless silken ties of love and thought,
“What were the struggles of his youth, what acts?”
What he has willed he had better not will again
Behind your frail tilted barrier. Tenderness
Finally to make his mind up to go home
Where the light is, and each thing clear.
As I made for the grove, without expectation,
They found me dangling with his golden wind.
History has to live with what was here:
The memory of the death of at least one man;
How soldiers milled around the garden stone,
Venison-sweet in the heavy smoke.


"Five Hundred Years" Sources:

Line 1: Ezra Pound, "A Virginal"
Line 2: Edward Thomas, "Some Eyes Condemn"
Line 3: Robert Frost, "The Silken Tent"
Line 4: W.H. Auden, "Who's Who"
Line 5: Elliott Coleman, from Oedipus Sonnets
Line 6: Malcolm Lowry, "Delirium In Vera Cruz"
Line 7: Elizabeth Bishop, "The Prodigal"
Line 8: Delmore Schwartz, "The Beautiful American Word, Sure"
Line 9: John Berryman, "Sonnet 115"
Line 10: James Merrill, "Marsyas"
Line 11: Robert Lowell, "History"
Line 12: David Lehman, "Sonnet"
Line 13: James Wright, "Saint Judas"
Line 14: April Bernard, "English as a Second Language"


Notes on "Five Hundred Years"

I’ve always wanted to call myself a sonneteer, and though I know I’ll never be as good as Shakespeare or Millay, it hasn’t stopped me from exploring a form that is both steeped in tradition and constantly being amended by every generation since da Lentini.

“Five Hundred Years” was composed on June 15, 2003, during a phase in my writing life where I could do nothing but write sonnets—or, at the very least, 14-line poems that had some or all of the characteristics of a sonnet. While reading The Penguin Book of the Sonnet (which is subtitled “500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English,” hence the poem’s title), the notion of creating a sonnet cento came to me, more out of the desire to experiment than with the grand notion to create a finished poem. But once I found a few lines that complimented each other, I thought I would up the ante and make the sonnet cento not only rhyme, but, as much as possible, try to have it “make sense.” I can’t say how the logic of the poem fell into place, and if asked for an explanation of the narrative, I’d point to the distance with a look of distress on my face, and when my questioners turned around to see what so horrified me, I’d run away.

I will point out that the lines move roughly in chronological order by poet, from the first line by Ezra Pound to the last, by April Bernard. This is happenstance and not design. I endeavored to use only American poets, but a few Englishmen (Thomas, Auden, Lowry) slipped in. I must also point out that there is a volta in the proper Petrarchan place between lines 8 and 9. This is also coincidence, but a happy one, and often how poems are written.


Michael Schiavo’s poetry and nonfiction has appeared in The Yale Review, Seneca Review, Tin House, The Believer, McSweeney’s, Painted Bride Quarterly, Guernica, 1913: A Journal of Forms, No Tell Motel, and elsewhere. He is a contributing editor to CUE and one of the most notorious cat burglars Europe has ever known.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Here's the winning Cento from the the Cento Bingo game played on 8/24 in my Theft and the Individual Talent class at Bread Loaf. The winner/writer was Lindsay Bernal. I have taken some liberties with the punctuation:


Is life without an atmosphere? I look.
The world is weary of the past,
Of her sick waters and infectious ease--
An era in which we would count beats per minute.
I feel like a dog that is sniffing the ass of another dog

1. John Greenleaf Whittier from "Among the Hills"
2. Percy Bysshe Shelley from "Hellas"
3. Henry Vaughan from "Regeneration"
4. Andrew Mister from "Lame House"
5. Matthew Dickman from "Amigos"

I have asked the class participants to post their reworked versions of this Cento as comments on this entry, so please check back for updates.

Thanks again to everyone who participated.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Game #2: Brett Price's apartment Brighton,
Cincinnati 5/23/07
WINNER: Cindy King


Of the minutest cricket
there was a joke.
Pretend that you don’t agree with me
this morning with a blue flame burning.
Nests with their birds, houses with their keys.

1.Emily Dickinson
2. Robert Creeley from “The Joke”
3. Stan Rice from “Psalm 178”
4. John Wieners from “A Poem for Trapped Things”
5. Paul Eluard from “To Live Here”

title by Brett Price



The trees facing wind, wind-waves towing nothing: leaves flagging, nothing to sign—

This morning. Its blue flame burning clouds.

Hotness overrunning horses overrun by dust, by—

Roofs remark their hooves overlain with hooves.

Despite the flame blue and shingles, the sand
notices the Milky Way the origami the doves, the oysters
sense the racks they boil on. Red, orange, yellow:

temperatures like onion inside
onion. Thunder slices too close to a car.

Pretend you don’t agree with the one quiet dust.
Pretend you didn’t see that blue crack burning.

Nests full of cower, mansions full of feed.

Cindy's Note:

I didn’t want to touch the five lines – still don’t. They seem to come from some logic that essentially clings to the ether. I wasn’t even present to win. Ruth Wartman was guarding my bingo card for me: I was taking an important call down in the very tidy bedroom of someone I don’t know. This adds to the feeling the five lines are like a rock that fell from the sky. Then I wrote a first draft. It was all Latinate collaged with refrains akin to the ones in Rukeyser’s “Orange and Grape”. It ended with a statement followed by, “This is the joke.” But then, that poem looked too vertical, cut like an intractable and mincing landscape poem from 1989. Rumpus in a stale way. So, I started over. I stared out the window for a long time. I thought about big things, the cricket who’d been in my mind for a long time by then, how comfort and scale can blind anyone to a helpless quiet thing like a cricket (or a conscience).


Cindy King is currently recovering from an injury sustained while pitching fastballs on a Sony Wii. Her poems are forthcoming in RealPoetik and Copper Nickel.

Friday, June 8, 2007

CENTO BINGO: GAME #1 WINNER: Kristi Maxwell!

Ladies and gents, we are pleased to unveil the results of Cento Bingo Game #1. Below are both the game winning cento and also an all new and wholly original re-working of that poem by winner Kristi Maxwell. Please check out Kristi's notes on her cento revision process too, and stay tuned for the results of game #2!

Game #1: Brett Price’s apartment Brighton, Cincinnati 5/23/07
WINNER: Kristi Maxwell


I have the rages that small animals have.
It is a sultry day the sun has drunk.
Thank you for giving me this battleship to wash.
Sorrow’s springs are the same—
and, with a shout, collecting coat hangers.

1. Paulette Jiles from “Paper Matches”
2. William Cullen Bryant from “Summer Wind”
3. Kenneth Koch from "Thank You"
4. Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Spring and Fall”
5. Kenneth Koch from “When the Sun Tries to Go On”



I clean my rage with rags small animals have been made into.
Sulk-day. Sun-dame the thermometer accosts and crams
into the mercury corset. (Our course set by “how
warm?”—we accomplice.) Thank you for giving
me this battle. Thank you for shipping me
this wish. Marrow springs from the bone. Pain as the bangs
that cover so well the forehead of “So?” –
and, with a shout, equating oat with anger.
I asked how to unfill what you feel.
To insert a plus-sign where one is not.

Kristi's Note:

The modified lines are first a practice in translation via misrecognition (both visually and phonically), followed by an iron laid to skin and blisters that needed names. I enjoy discovering what two words beside each other secretly harbor, like characters in a Victorian novel, and misrecognition is one productive map toward such discovery. And, yes, booby-traps! So climbing out of the line, slipping sometimes, not so much at others.


Kristi Maxwell enjoys making guacamole and asparagus soup. She is the author of Realm Sixty-Four (forthcoming from Ahsahta Press) and an admirer of The Little Prince.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Good news, true believers, CENTO BINGO happened! Wed. 5/23 at 8PM in the Brighton neighborhood of Cincinnati, OH, and it was a roaring success. Roar.

The two inaugural games took place at editor Brett Price's apartment/disco, and Matt Hart called them. Also in attendance for both the centos and the dancing that followed were: Kristi Maxwell, Michael Rerick, Cindy King, Scott Dennis, Christian Schmit, Ruth Wartman, Laura Alich, Mike Vallera, and Katie Koga.

Kristi Maxwell won game #1, and Cindy King won game #2. Look for their winning Centos and also the new poems they're making using their winnings as material in upcoming CENTO BINGO posts.

It'll be soon, we swear.

Questions about Cento Bingo, or about how to host your own Cento Bingo games can be posted as comments to this blog.

Thanks to everybody who attended the Brighton event!

--The Cento Bingo Editorial Team