Saturday, September 05, 2015

Found Poem - A Process Post

After reading my poetry sisters' posts yesterday, I wanted to revisit my poems, rethink the form, and play a bit more. While doing this, I thought I would share a bit about process.

I had a hard time finding source material for this project. I looked over travel brochures, the newspaper, appliance manuals, picture books, and more. It wasn't until I was looking for a dinner recipe that it struck me I might be able to use a recipe. Unlike my mother's old Good Housekeeping cookbook (a wedding gift circa 1952), today's cookbooks contain more than just recipes. They often contain a bit of insight, family history, tales of cooking exploits, and more. When I read Jamie Oliver's recipe for Monkfish Wrapped In Banana Leaves With Ginger, Cilantro, Chile, And Coconut Milk, I knew I had a text to work with.

The first thing I did was copy and paste the recipe into Word and justify the text. Here's the intro and directions from the original piece. When I realized I wouldn't be using the ingredients in my word choices, I took that section out. (It occurs to me now that I may have cheated a bit in doing this. Oh well ...)
You just can't go wrong with this combination of flavours. It's open to all white-fleshed fish. Banana leaves are very easy to buy from Asian or Latino markets. Get nice big ones to wrap your fish up in. Failing banana leaves, you can use vine leaves, which you can get in the supermarkets, somewhat smaller, but no less tasty for that. If you really can't get hold of any leaves then kitchen foil will do.
To make the banana leaves more pliable, hold for a few seconds over a gas flame. Leaving aside the fish and herb sticks, pound the rest of the ingredients in a pestle and mortar to make a thick paste and spoon a little onto each banana leaf. Place the fish on top and then spoon the rest of the paste on the top. Bringing the sides in and spiking it with a rosemary sprig or bay leaf stick to secure it. This will look lovely and it is natural, but I have been known to use a clothes peg or string to hold it all together. It won't be a perfect seal but this allows it to breath and steam, letting the flavours infuse, so gutsy and tasty. Put the parcels on a tray and bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. I serve the individual parcels on plates at the table and let my friends dissect them. When opened, the fragrant steam wafts up and smells fantastic. Serve with plain boiled rice to mop up the juices, that's all it has to be. End of story, done, lovely.
Once I began looking at the words, the recipe faded into the background and I was left with "finding" a poem in a limited bit of text. Now that I look back, I realize that there are other words and phrases I might have used, like "to make ... more pliable," gutsy, spoon, and flame. However, I also told myself that I HAD to use the words in the position and order found, so some of the words I liked may not have fit in appropriate place given this rule.

Originally, I made this into a blackout poem.
Version 1
After seeing some the poems of my sisters (particularly Tanita's), I thought maybe I would like this better with the words "whited out" instead of blacked out. Here's what the poem looks like in reverse.
Version 2
I almost think I like the second version better. It seems less jarring to read. Maybe next time I'll create the poem by copying the page and simply using a highlighter. Who knows?

This poem was the very first found poem I've ever written in this manner. (I have written centos using book titles and created book spine poems. I suppose those could both be considered a form of found poetry.) Once it was done, I realized that I didn't need text that was beautifully written, but rather one that contained a wealth of interesting words. My second choice was an academic text. It was wordy and convoluted, but I found inspiration in a number of excerpts.

I'm not sure I'll pursue this form again, but who knows what may happen the next time I sit in a meeting and have some dreadful page of notes in front of me. If I look at it with a poet's eye, I might just find what I need to make a poem.


  1. Hie! I'm quiet new here...but I'm loving your posts so far. I'm a Poet myself. Would you mind checking out my Blog?

  2. Thanks so much for posting your process, Tricia. I'm curious, what was the title of your found poem?

  3. Thanks so much for posting your process, Tricia. I'm curious, what was the title of your found poem?