Thursday, October 2, 2014

FOUND POETRY & How To Write Them (Shared)


a composition made by combining fragments of such printed material as newspapers, signs, or menus, and rearranging them into the form of a poem.
Encyclopedia Article: 
a poem consisting of words found in a nonpoetic context (such as a product label) and usually broken into lines that convey a verse rhythm. Both the term and the concept are modeled on the objet trouve (French: "found object"), an artifact not created as art or a natural object that is held to have aesthetic value when taken out of its context
What Is Found Poetry?

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.

Examples of found poems can be seen in the work of Blaise Cendrars, David Antin, and Charles Reznikoff. In his book Testimony, Reznikoff created poetry from law reports, such as this excerpt:

Amelia was just fourteen and out of the orphan asylum; at her
   first job--in the bindery, and yes sir, yes ma’am, oh, so
   anxious to please.
She stood at the table, her blond hair hanging about her
   shoulders, “knocking up” for Mary and Sadie, the stichers
(“knocking up” is counting books and stacking them in piles to
   be taken away).

Many poets have also chosen to incorporate snippets of found texts into larger poems, most significantly Ezra Pound. His Cantos includes letters written by presidents and popes, as well as an array of official documents from governments and banks. The Waste Land, by T. S. Eliot, uses many different texts, including Wagnerian opera, Shakespearian theater, and Greek mythology. Other poets who combined found elements with their poetry are William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, and Louis Zukofsky.

The found poem achieved prominence in the twentieth-century, sharing many traits with Pop Art, such as Andy Warhol’s soup cans or Marcel Duchamp’s bicycle wheels and urinals. The writer Annie Dillard has said that turning a text into a poem doubles that poem’s context. “The original meaning remains intact," she writes, “but now it swings between two poles.”


How to Write Found Poetry

This page explains found poetry and how to write a poem using this exciting technique. At the bottom of the page, you'll find links to more creative writing lessons and tips.

How to write a found poem

A found poem uses language from non-poetic contexts and turns it into poetry. Think of a collage -- visual artists take scraps of newspaper, cloth, feathers, bottle caps, and create magic. You can do the same with language and poems.

Writing this type of poetry is a kind of treasure hunt. Search for interesting scraps of language, then put them together in different ways and see what comes out. Putting seemingly unrelated things together can create a kind of chemical spark, leading to surprising results.

You might end up rewriting the poem in the end and taking all the found language out, or you might keep the found scraps of language almost in their original form. Either way, found language is a great way to jolt your imagination.

There are no rules for found poetry, as long as you are careful to respect copyright.

Here are some potential sources of "treasure":

  • instruction books, recipes

  • horoscopes, fortune cookies

  • bulletin boards

  • science, math, or social science textbooks

  • dictionaries

  • graffiti

  • pieces of letters, post cards, phone messages, notes you've written for yourself

  • grocery lists, lists of all kinds

  • spam e-mails (Well, they've got to be good for something. But be careful not to click on any suspicious links!)

Try it! Found poem ideas

Here are some ideas you can use to write your own found poetry:

1) Take parts of instructions for some appliance such as a microwave. Replace some of the words that refer to the appliance, using that words that talk about something else. For example: "Lift the memory carefully. Caution: edges may be sharp..."

Suggested poem topics:

  • parenthood

  • falling in love

  • trying to forget something painful

2) Try writing a love poem that quotes various graffiti from a public restroom. Or one that quotes personal ads in a newspaper. This could be very sad love poem, or a funny one, depending on how you decide to write it.

3) Write a poem called "Possible Side Effects." Use phrases from the instructions for some medication in your house, and combine these with language from another source, such as newspaper headlines, advertisements, a TV guide, or a mail-order catalogue. Put these two very different elements together and see what happens.


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