“Memory Cento”

“Memory Cento” by Simon Cockle is composed from: the recipe for dressing a calf’s head in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796); the story of “The Three Cows” in More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs and John D. Batten (first published 1893); and a passage on memory and the brain from Curiosities of Medical Experience by J. G. Millingen (1839).

Simon writes about the poem and its composition:

“I chose my three sources for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to blend fiction and non-fiction to create a poem where it would be difficult to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Secondly, I tried to find sources that contained different registers of language: old English, archaic terms and formal, scientific low-frequency language. Finally, I chose sources that were thematically linked—memory, loss, sensation—to creative a cohesive narrative. Once I pieced together fragments of the sources, I was surprised by the sequence of events they told, and how heart-breaking the conclusion was to this family’s story.”