Wednesday, April 15, 2015

NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Found Poems

At the most basic level, found poems are poems composed from words and phrases found in another text. Here is a more comprehensive description from the folks at
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.
And here is what is written on the "About" page at The Found Poetry Review.
“Happy poets who write found poetry go pawing through popular culture like sculptors on trash heaps. They hold and wave aloft usable artifacts and fragments: jingles and ad copy, menus and broadcasts — all objet trouvés, the literary equivalents of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans and Duchamp’s bicycle. By entering a found text as a poem, the poet doubles its context. The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles. The poet adds, or at any rate increases, the element of delight. This is an urban, youthful, ironic, cruising kind of poetry. It serves up whole texts, or interrupted fragments of texts.” — Annie Dillard

Put another way, found poetry is the literary version of a collage. Poets select a source text or texts — anything from traditional texts like books, magazines and newspapers to more nontraditional sources like product packaging, junk mail or court transcripts — then excerpt words and phrases from the text(s) to create a new piece.
What I love about the Found Poetry site is that they describe different types of found poetry and where possible, provide examples. You can learn about erasure, free-form excerpting and remixing, cento, and cut-up. They also provide a quick but very helpful introduction to issues of fair use.

In an NCTE article on found and headline poems I found this most useful and inspiring language for thinking about found poetry.
Plenty of strong and beautiful poems are made from plain language. You sometimes hear such language in conversation, when people are talking their best. Listen. Sometimes you yourself say wonderful things. Admit it. You can find moving, rich language in books, on walls, even in junk mail. (From such sources you’ll probably find better poems, or better beginnings for poems, than from dictionaries and other word books.) 
So, poems hide in things you and others say and write. They lie buried in places where language isn’t so self-conscious as “real poetry” often is.
So found poetry is inspired by every little thing, you just need to keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to the possibilities.
The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems (2012), edited by Georgia Heard and illustrated by Antoine Guillope, is a collection of 40 found poems. The guidelines for creating the poems found in the book are outlined in the Introduction and are excerpted here.
  • Poets were asked to find text that already exists in a form other than poetry and present that text as a poem.
  • Poets could find poems from any source (other than poetry).
  • Poets were encouraged not to change, add, or rearrange words but, as in any creative endeavor, they stretched these guidelines and were allowed to make minor changes in order for the poem to flow more smoothly or make better sense. They could also change punctuation, tense, plurals, and capitalization.
  • Poets created their own titles that often gave the poems depth and added another layer of meaning.
  • Poets could combine the found poem with an other form.
So, the intrepid poets in this volume set out to find poems in the texts of everyday life. Here are a few of the poems they came up with.

Found by Janet Wong
on a box of OxiClean detergent

Pep Talk

Keep cool.
See a brighter solution.
Maintain freshness.
Boost your power!

Poem ©Janet Wong. All rights reserved.

Found by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
in Drawing On Both Sides of the Brain
by Betty Edwards

Artist's Advice

Draw everything and anything.
Nothing is unbeautiful:
a few square inches of weeds
a broken glass
a landscape
a human being.
Observe your style.
Guard it.
Put pencil to paper every day.

Poem ©Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.

Finally, I want to share one more found poem. This is a poem of a different sort. Please visit the Newspaper Blackout site to learn more about Austin Kleon and his work.
Poem ©Autsin Kleon. All rights reserved.

If you would like to try writing found poems with your students, here are some helpful resources.
Now that you are inspired, go out and find yourself a poem! NPM is half over, but I still have more to explore with you. I'll hope you'll come back tomorrow for another form.

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