Next Line, Please

Erase and Change

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By David Lehman

January 19, 2016


 

 

For our next poem, Berwyn Moore would like us to compose a cento, and Paul Michelsen advances the idea of erasure as a method of composition. Combining these suggestions, I propose that we follow this procedure, line by line:

  • Nominate a line lifted from a poem by a deceased poet who wrote in English.
  • Erase at least one word in the line and/or substitute a word or two.
  • Bonus credit for including an anagram of one word in the previous line.

Wit, surprise, profundity, ingenuity, and beauty will be valued. Length will be determined as the lines dictate.

Let me get us started by suggesting a first line. Any of these three, below, will work. Please indicate which your second line is based on:

The road of excess leads to the bliss of solitude
Based on “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” (Blake) and “the bliss of solitude” (Wordsworth)

Guns fret not at their chamber’s narrow doom 
Based on ”Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room” (Keats)

Thus the con artist makes cowboys of us all
Based on “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all” (Shakespeare)

Deadline: Midnight, Sunday January 24, 2016


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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