Found Poetry (part 2)
When it comes to Found Poems, I feel like crafting is a better word choice than writing. Maybe even constructing is closer to the mark. And they can range in difficulty from a quick-and-easy rearrangement poem, to the complexity of many of the poems that I crafted for this project. For those who may be interested, I thought to share some the process I went through, and you can read more of the poems and more about teaching Found Poetry here.
As I mentioned in part 1, there are rules that can govern poetry, and the first thing I decided was that I would only use one line or phrase from each poem. So as I read, I pulled out a line that stood out for some reason, keeping the punctuation intact as an extra potential challenge. Early in the selection process I often chose the line because it was interesting or clever, but eventually I picked lines that might work well together, perhaps because they had similar imagery. After reading the book and selecting lines from most or all the poems, I had a whole list which then became a bank to use.
Once the whole list was compiled, I read it several times over the next day or so, letting the words sink in and incubate. A theme or unifying idea eventually emerged, and I started sifting through the lines to see what fit and what didn’t belong. For this collection of lines, what caught my attention was the line “the ghost of that beautiful lady.” Combined with references like leaf-green, shadier, and the “starry darkness of night,” I started imagining that the poem was about planet Earth spinning through space. The idea started to coalesce that the poem was about Earth calling for help from the stars because things weren’t going well on the surface. At some point it occurred to me that the viewpoint was from the planet itself, so Earth was narrating. Eventually, this found poem emerged:
From the Stars that Strangely Stir
Once when my life was young,
with sighs that softly ebbed and flowed,
I sang of hope in the starry darkness.
Under the ghost of the moon,
I left my melodies behind, enjoyed
how the silence surged softly backward.
Flower of a moment in the eternal hour,
denser and shadier and greener,
I darkened against the darkness
to a ghost of that beautiful lady.
My mind in fevered dreams now moved and
trembled in unforsaking shadows.
With iron solemnity, re-echoing cry
with cry, I asked for grant and grace
from the stars that strangely stir.
On the crystal verge of death, in my own
dimming twilight, there rose dream-waters
of light, pale and cool.
Slanting through wild centuries, the
deepest solitude brought relief. I
fell back into a veiling silentness, to sing
of hope once again in the starry darkness.
Each poem had a life of its own, so I let it lead the creative process. So some seemed to have a dominant line that needed to be repeated, some wanted to be highly organized and sequential, while others were more haphazard. Most of the Found Poems stayed very close to the original lines, though some didn’t have a lot of lines to work with and needed additional input from me. Lastly, with all of the poems, I scoured the leftover lines for any words or phrases that could still be useful. On occasion, I substituted them into the poems to help create a more consistent or clearer message.
Get my FREE Found Poetry handout here.