Shaping Up Poetry: Found Poems
Found Poetry is another one of those amazing forms that tweak our known ideas of what poetry should look like or what it should be. So, today let’s look at finding poetry in unexpected places.
What is Found Poetry? (thanks Wikianswers)
A found poem is one in which words and phrases are taken from various sources and then strung together to make sense.
It is named because the elements which compose the poem are “found”. The words or phrases “found”, although they were written in totally different contexts and not meant to be used together, all have some kind of common theme. When placed together, they make a poem that makes sense.
1. Grab any prose source (newspaper or magazine articles, ad flyers, instructions, directions, even textbook passages) and select a passage of 100 words or less.
2. Go through and find words and short phrases that have a “poetical” sound or are unusual or simply seem unique or interesting.
3. If possible cut these out from the source, and if this is not feasible (some schools and libraries are picky about cutting up their books and magazines) write them down.
4. Collect about 50 words and set them aside (roughly “find” about half of the original count 100=50).
5. Begin moving them around until the poem finds its way on the page. One idea is to create the basic idea of the original piece. Found Poems can be typed out or formed into a collage.
Of course, these are basic guidelines and there is lots of flexibility to finding your own poem. Here are a few examples demonstrating the creativity of this form:
First of all, go to Poets.orgto read a “legit” Found Poem.
Now, for some collage styles:
This is an example of blocking out the words in the source (be source it’s okay to do so!):
One other example is taking prose, in this case an excerpt of a short story, and finding a poem within it: (my rendered interpretation)
From “the Osage Orange Tree” by William Stafford
On that first day of high school in the prairie town where the tree was, I stood in the sun by the flagpole and watched, but pretended not watch, the others. They stood in groups and talked and knew each other, and standing near the corner looking everywhere but at the crowd.
She stood lonely
as the tree
in the school courtyard.
bridging summer into fall.
She stood alone,
like the tree.
I saw her.
She didn’t see me.
As you can read I didn’t follow my own directions of cutting the words down to half. That’s the loveliest aspect of poetry–it’s aching to have its own rules broken.
Hoping you will find your own poetry in whatever prose you come across. Finding a poem hiding within the everyday stuff words are made up of is a bonus.
Happy Poetry Month!
- I Found Poetry in the Headlines (mbruno.org)
- Pondering Poetry (cricketmuse.wordpress.com)
- Found Poem & Process (ironjean.com)
- The Waste Land Found (thoughtsatintervals.com)
- Found Poems (lawsonsotherdog.wordpress.com)
- A “found” corruption comparison (lloydlofthouse.org)