My Experiment in How to Make a Poem

Last month, a friend forwarded a link to an online creative writing course offered by Manchester Metropolitan University.

My eye caught a course on How to Make a Poem and after a few keystrokes. I was enrolled.


The first assignment was to submit a single word that stands out because of the way it looks on a page or has a personal significance or one likes to say aloud.

Over fifteen hundred words were submitted and most, in my view, were predictable: Love, Black, Blue, Pain, Beginning, End, Mankind, Time, Silence, Sunshine, Soul.

There was the submission of unusual words and those that I liked were:

pamplemousse, French for grapefruit,

eish! – Meaning wow! What? an expression of surprise of Bantu origin

Ebullient – cheerful and full of energy, and

Idiolect – the speech habits peculiar to a person.

My submission was Darajani, the Swahili word for a raised road or track across low or wet ground; or trail. I chose it to represent a pathway; from unknown to known, sadness to happiness, darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge – the pathway that one’s imagination crosses every day. Bapoo, my father was born in Darajani Bazaar in Stone Town Zanzibar, not far from the famous market.

The next assignment was to make a poem out of a poem, by combining one line from two different poems, a cento, a couplet of two lines. The sources of poems were from web links to Poetry Foundation and Poetry Archive

The idea was to read poems, read them critically, and to see if any lines jump out at you. Interestingly, some lines stood out because I could relate to the theme or because they were just beautifully written. From such lines, my submission was:

We stand in the rain in a long line
Happy to be leaving, hesitant and unprepared for the departure

First line: What Work Is – Philip Levine (Poetry Foundation Website)
Second line: I Told You I Was Sick – Elaine Kahn (Poetry Foundation Website)

While it was an enjoyable exercise in reading poems, it took several iterations and examining several poems to write this cento.

There were two other learnings that I found to be interesting and enjoyable, Found Poetry and making a poem from two separate lists of words. However, to keep this first section brief, I will stop writing and encourage you to participate by sharing your one-word and cento.

Your assignment:

  1. What is your word? A single word that stands out because of the way it looks on a page or has a personal significance or one that you like to say aloud. Let us know why you chose that word. Later, as we progress, we will use these words to make poems.


  1. From your favorite poems, or from other poems, select two lines that stand out for you and put them together to form a cento. Share the source of your line selections so that we too can enjoy reading them.

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