I started writing centos a few weeks ago, thinking this would be the focus of my National Poetry Month Project. I even shared this at the Sunday writing session with my Poetry Sisters. However, after a bit of thought, I decided to expand the project and focus on a variety of found poem types.
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 Poets.org.
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.
“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.
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.
- The Library of Congress has an amazing teacher's guide and primary source set on creating found poetry from primary sources.
- WordMover is an interactive tool that allows children and teens to create “found poetry” by choosing from word banks and existing famous works; additionally, users can add new words to create a piece of poetry by moving/manipulating the text.
- Kathryn Apel provides ideas on how to create a Zentangle poem.
- Learn more about how Austin Kleon began creating newspaper blackout poems.
- This article from the National Writing Project entitled Uncovering Truths Beneath a Found Poem describes an inspiring lesson leading students through the creation of found poems.
- From the Library of Congress blog is an interesting piece entitled The Writing's on the Wall: Found Poetry in Street Art.