Found Poetry

Workshop from January 20, 2014: Lost and Found

Found Poems…

“…take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems. A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.”

—Poets.org (Academy of American Poets)

How to “find” a poem.

Think of this as a type of treasure hunt. Search for interesting words, phrases, scraps of language, then put them together in different ways and see what comes out. Like with visual arts of appropriation, seemingly unrelated things together can create an almost chemical spark, leading to interesting results.

There are no rules for found poetry, but be careful to respect copyright!

You might find it easier to choose a general theme on which to write, and then search for words related to your topic. Alternately, you may open up a magazine/book/newspaper and see what jumps out. This is a good way to get the imagination up and running if you’re stuck on ideas.

Some very general guidelines:

Keep the words YOU add (i.e. not found in the text) to a minimum.

Decide whether you’ll allow yourself to move words around out of context or want to keep them fairly verbatim.

Feel free to get a little liberal with the punctuation—leave it in, take it out, add your own.  Likewise with line breaks!

Stuck? Work negatively: cross out words and chisel out the poem from there.

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You can check out my result from the night’s workshop here. To see a round-table, Exquisite Corpse-like exercise “found” line-by-line by the entire group, see here.

One thought on “Found Poetry

  1. Pingback: Snowdragon | the tenth muse

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