What are found poems, and how can you use them to battle a writer’s block or to wake up your slumbering creativity once more? Found poetry refers to a practice of taking words or phrases from other sources and rearraging them into a poem. So basically you take a text, erase parts of it and remix it, and form a collage of sorts. In practice it works like this:
You take any page of text, and start picking words you like. In its pure form, the poem should be completely found: You do not add any additional words to your text. Strictly speaking you should not change the order of the words either but rather cross out words and passages that you do not need, and then attempt to form a poem out of the remaining words. These are called untreated found poems.
Another way is to use the original text as inspiration, and freely change the syntax and add words, where ever necessary, to create a fresh text. You can read more about found poetry and view some examples here.
What to use as a source of your found poem?
This is the cool thing about found poetry. You can use almost any text to write your own poem. For example news paper articles, speeches, letters, and just about any written or spoken word will do. Take a rap text, or the latest Fox News article, or pick up a play and start editing it. Oh and remember the most important rule: Have fun!
Challenge: Five Days of Found Poetry
Feeling intrigued? Take the Found Poetry challenge below and experiment with your creativity. And don’t forget to come back here and share with me how it went! I’d love to read your comments (and your poems)!
Take your favourite book or magazine and randomly open it. Use the open page to create a found poem, at least six lines long. You have maximum 15 minutes to finish the poem.
Pick an unsolved mystery, and visit its Wikipedia page. Write a found poem, explaining what really happened.
Ideas: Loch Ness Monster, Bermuda Triangle, Area 51, Who was Jack the Ripper?
Take some post that you have received. It can be advertisement magazines, newspapers, bills, official documents – anything that came in the mail. Write a poem about one of the following topics, using the mailed material:
- a blackmailing letter
- a letter from your lawyer
- a letter from your neighbour’s lawyer (your neighbour is suing you)
- a marketing poem, advertising the most innovative new product on Earth (for example a personal space ship or an anti-aging device)
- a letter from the government
Turn on the news either on TV or radio, and write down all the words that you hear (Or at least as many words as you physically can). Do this for five minutes. The poem you make must start with the first word you wrote down, and end with the last word.
Found Poems Do Not Need to Be Literary Master Pieces
The idea of this challenge is simply to give you new writing angles and perhaps sparkle some new ideas in your mind. Do not get hung up on how “good” the poem should become. Enjoy writing it, and treat it with a bit of humour.
Here is a little sample that I wrote on Elisha Waldman’s article What We Get Wrong About Dying. As a side note, it is a brilliant article, so go read it if you have the time.
We would move on
startling, lost in our all-ins
full of dirt, morbidly
in the grave with a tractor
minutes to the death certificate
Do you frequent here?
Mr. Hadassah asked
On the day of my death
Ongoing spillage and signs of disease
My job here is done
a young man, entrusted into my care
cannot deal with my goseis
And holy men, for three more days
and a cured child
with the ghosts of the family
in secret, without a warning
I have to confess that I added a few letters and two words that were not in the source text. It is easy to get carried away with the writing and editing – which is exactly the point. Now stop reading my blog and go write your own poem! Good luck.