Saturday, February 9, 2013

Prompt #136 – Collage Cabaret

"Still Life with Chair-Caning"
Paris, 1912
Oil and oilcloth on canvas, with rope frame
10 5/8 x 13 3/4 in. (27 x 35 cm.)
Daix 466. Musee Picasso, Paris

Note: Early in 1912, Picasso created “Still Life with Chair Caning” (above), which is considered by many to be the first modern collage. To create the artwork, Picasso attached a piece of oilcloth with a caning pattern to an oval-shaped painting, which he “framed” with rope.

The world collage comes from the French coller, which means “to glue” and is an art production technique in which artwork is made from a variety of materials to create a new whole. Typically, collages contain photographs, newspaper clippings, different kinds of papers, ribbons or string, maps, matchbooks, magazine advertisements, and a range of other materials that are glued to a piece of paper or a canvas. Collage, as an art form, may be traced back several centuries and was first seen in China around the year 200 BC at the time paper was invented. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that collage reached its height of popularity (concurrent with the Modernist Movement’s beginnings). Today, collage enjoys a renaissance of interest among graphic artists and poets alike. 

Here’s the Challenge:

1. Before beginning, Google “collages” and spend some time looking at examples offered on the Internet. You’ll find some great collage examples by poet/artist Nancy Scott at  

2. To begin, think of a general topic/theme (childhood, a particular place, a person, a pet, a time in your life, a historical era, etc).

3. Now either write a poem about the theme you’ve chosen, or select one of your already-written poems that fits your theme or determines another.

4. At this point, I suggest getting a piece of posterboard (any size), cardboard, sturdy paper, a small artist’s canvas, or the backing material of your choice on which you will make your collage. You'll also need scissors and glue. Then, gather several pictures or images that express your theme and specific points in your poem. You can include personal photos, photos that you print from the Internet, or pictures from magazines or newspapers. You’ll also need other interesting materials—think in terms of colors, textures, etc. Your materials may be anything that can be glued to your background.

5. Now begin to “collage” your poem. There are no specific instructions for making a collage—experiment with shapes and forms, surface variety, unique materials, and have fun. Make your collage a composite of related images, give a little nod to the surreal, take some risks. Your collage and your poem will be two parts of a whole and will contain layered images in both visuals and language.

Alternative Suggestions:

1. An alternative is to create a collage background (a paste-up of pictures) over which you paste the words of your poem. To do this, type the poem and print it out, then cut the lines into strips and paste them over your background collage.

2. A second alternative is to write a collage poem (sometimes called “found poetry”) in which you clip words and phrases from a newspaper or magazine and turn them into a poem. 

Have fun with this — enjoy the processes of poem and collage!


  1. This is a lot of fun and a great activity to use in the classroom! Students (especially younger students) can be asked to make a collage and then write a poem about it. (There are lots of options to tailor this to specific groups.)

    Also great for thinking creatively through a long, cold winter day!

    Thanks, Adele!

    1. Thanks, Jamie! I've used this in classroom workshops and even with senior citizens. It's a lot of fun.

  2. It rumbles very far
    It rains. It always rain
    It rains on tamarisks
    so saltish and burned,
    it rains on pine trees
    so scaly and steep
    It rains, it' wednesday, I'm in Cesena
    Yet the rain is with us and
    moves a silent air
    Evening is coming
    and it stops raining
    on Tuscan Apeninnes.

    Solo la pioggia può bagnare le lacrime di Marilù.

    1. I love how your visual images touch the senses, and the short lines and phrases give a sense of falling rain (staccato—like raindrops).

      Thanks for sharing this.

      Is this the meaning of the last line?
      "Only the rain can dampen the tears of Marilù."

    2. Brilliant, Jago! Adele's right in her analysis, and your last line dips into that sense of mystery you always create! You make the reader ask, "Who is Marilù"?

    3. Adele, the lines are of several italian poets, a collage poem, but the wonderful translation is mine...!

      Oh, you are translating, very well! The meaning is right. When I translated the line I used "wet"; what is the difference, the variance? Nobody knows it, but Adele knows.

    4. Jago! This is so funny—I liked your poem so much I forgot about the collage aspect of the prompt. I really like what you did with the idea and how you developed it.

      As far as translating is concerned, my Italian is almost non-existent. I got the first three words and had to look up the rest.

  3. Great stuff, as always, Adele! These prompts are so creative. Just reading them is an inspiration.

    Rich Mandel