Love and Poetry: The “Cento” Competition at Ipécom Paris Secondary School 2024

Amour et la Poésie - Le Concours de Cento du Collège Ipécom Paris 2024
Exemple de Sélection de Langue

Ipécom Paris Secondary School celebrates love and poetry in a unique and creative way: by organizing a competition* inspired by the concept of “Cento” (or “Centon” in French). This Latin term, less known in the French-speaking literary sphere, refers to a poem composed entirely of verses borrowed from other poetic works.

The Cento, with its roots dating back to antiquity, when poets such as Ausonius and Homer skilfully mixed existing poetic verses to create new works, follows a fascinating tradition of reinvention and celebration of poetry. In this artistic challenge, students are invited to create their own literary collage by assembling fragments of love poems, thus exploring the multiple facets of this feeling.

The Cento Challenge

The competition proposes a stimulating literary exercise: to construct a love poem from lines borrowed from various poems. Students are free to choose the subject of their love, whether it is affection for a friend, or a family member, a passion, a cherished object, their school, or even self- love. Historically, the cento, dating back to Greco-Roman antiquity, was an art of rearranging literary fragments to create a new and unexpected meaning. The works of Homer and Virgil, for example, were often reused, their verses rearranged to tell new stories. This tradition illustrates the richness of imitation and reinvention in literature, where old words find new life and meaning through the art of the cento.

Rules and Guidelines

Participants must follow a number of rules. Each source must be clearly cited at the bottom of the page, and a distinct colour code must be used for each source poem. The poems must be rich in detail and imagery, with a well-defined motif and rhythm. The use of rhyme is optional but can add a harmonious dimension to the poem.

Far from stifling creativity, these rules provide a framework that encourages innovation. By imposing certain constraints, they push students to think more creatively, finding new ways of combining words and ideas to create something unique. This playful approach to the competition invites participants to explore the infinite possibilities of language and poetry, while respecting literary traditions. It’s an exercise that combines rigour and imagination, challenging students to push the boundaries of their creative expression.

Creative Process

 Selecting and assembling poem lines  require an keen  eye for coherence and harmony. Participants are encouraged to look for lines that not only assemble well but together create a new meaning and beauty. Here are some generally recommended strategies for such a process:

  • Define a Theme: Identifying a central theme or emotion can serve as a guide for selecting verses that support this idea.
  • Explore Variety: Combining different styles and eras can significantly enrich the poem.
  • Seek Unexpected Connections: Surprising juxtapositions can often lead to striking images and innovative ideas.
  • Pay Attention to Rhythm: The rhythm and sound of the chosen verses, even from different poems, can harmonize to form a coherent whole.
  • Encourage Experimentation: Testing different combinations and sequences can help find the arrangement that resonates best with the participant’s creative intention.

These general tips can help participants navigate the process of creating a “Cento” in a more structured way, while encouraging personal exploration and creativity.

The Importance of Illustration

An illustration will accompany each poem, adding a visual dimension to the literary expression. Students must choose or create an illustration that reflects the theme and tone of their poem, thus forming a harmonious duet between text and image.

Historically, illustrations have played a crucial role in enriching poetry. From the illuminations of medieval manuscripts to modern artworks that often accompany published poems, illustrations have always had the ability to enhance the reader’s immersion, adding an extra layer of understanding and appreciation. These visual images can help  evoke the ambience, underline a theme, or even introduce a new perspective on the text. This symbiosis between visual art and poetic text demonstrates how different art forms can complement and enrich each other.

By inviting students to integrate illustrations into their centos, the competition perpetuates this long and rich artistic tradition, encouraging a deeper and multidimensional exploration of poetry.

Enhancing Bilingualism through Poetry: The Role of the English Competition

The English competition is part and parcel of the bilingual option offered by our school, zmphasizing our commitment to promoting excellent mastery of the English language. This challenge gives students a creative opportunity to apply their skills.

By creating a Cento entirely in English, participants have the opportunity to explore the richness of English literature and poetry, while refining their understanding and use of the language. Thus this competition becomes a vital part of their educational journey, not only as a linguistic exercise but also as a means to open windows onto new cultural perspectives.

The competition promises to be a memorable event, with the submission deadline set for March 12, the teacher’s birthday, and the award ceremony scheduled for March 19. It is an open invitation to all students at Ipécom Paris College to express their creativity and passion for poetry.

*Under the initiative of Rodolphe Fonty, an English teacher, graduate of the University of Cambridge and holder of the ‘Agrégation’ in English.

The English Centon Competition

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Mis à jour le 16 Mai 2024 à 14:56

Par Annie Reithmann

Directrice IPECOM Paris. DEA de Philosophie, spécialiste des méthodes d'apprentissage. En 1996 elle prend seule la direction d’Ipécom Paris.