Working with Mary Dalton on her new collection, Hooking, brought into sharp relief how little I knew about the cento. Over at Oona, a blogger makes a case for the form's cultural relevance:
In an age of sampling, remixes, & flarf, the renaissance of the cento, a form that dates, one way or another, at least to ancient Greece, is oddly apt. The possibilities of this kind of poetic collage are dizzying.Marie Okáčová zooms in:
I believe that the cento, rather than being an eccentric curiosity devoid of all literary value, is primarily a kind of intricate and actually perfectly legitimate play with language, which reflects its principles of operation. Being in fact the embodiment of absolute intertextuality, the patchwork poems implicitly question every notion of literary originality because they emphasize the interdepenence of individual texts representing different literary meta-languages. The cento is therefore "recycled" art only in a more conspicuous way than the rest of literature inevitably is; this, however, does not mean that a work of literature can actually never be original and inventive. In fact, as an example of intertextuality par excellence, the patchwork poetry is, at least conceptually, a highly innovative literary form.