The idea of a Found Poem is that you find it within the context of other words. Rather than starting with a blank page or screen and going with the flow of your own process, Found Poetry starts inside someone else's words. With Found Poetry you select, reorganize, quilt together, and reframe words and phrases you find from other sources. There are many types of found poems that stretch across a range of "rules" for writing, from "Blackout Poems," which are more open to cherry-picking words and phrases, to "Verbatim Poems," which are supposed to be quite exact to the original.
It's a different creative process because you are stitching together separate elements, making decisions about line breaks and punctuation and things from inherited material. The creative fun is more in the design and layout, determining line breaks and structure. Because there are many forms of Found Poetry it's good to know that you can just make up your own set of rules about creating them. The purists say the best poems are literally found within other texts and should have few or no changes except for the presentation in poetic form. Others simple say that the creative process is the most important part, so enjoy crafting poems no matter how they come about.
I recently bought a stack of poetry books from a used book store and wondered what to do with them—besides reading them of course! So I decided to explore Found Poetry in my own way. As I was reading, I wrote down a single line or phrase from each poem that caught my attention for some reason. After collecting enough I tried to find a theme to what I had collected and then selected and arranged what I had. Here is a sample of one of the poems I crafted during this project, this one with lines found within an essay The Study of Poetry by Matthew Arnold (1880). I'll write more about the process and the lines themselves in part 2.
Poetry is an immense
world-river of wondrous words,
an ever surer creed of parading evidences
and materialized magic,
a cloud of eternal glory.
Poetry is the divine illusion of destinies,
impassioned expression, the countenance
of shadows and dreams, the
breath of the finer spirit of knowledge:
thought and art in one accreditation.
Poetry obliterates distinctions between
the finite and infinite, between
conscious and unconscious,
sound and unsound or only half-sound,
true and untrue or only half-true.
Everything which interferes with poetry,
anything which hinders,
is injurious to the noble sphere
of the impassioned laws of
poetical truth and lyrical beauty.
More and more humankind will discover
that we have to turn to poetry
to interpret life
to console us, to sustain us:
religion is unconscious poetry.
Without poetry, our sciences are incomplete,
sterile and arbitrary
full of dangerous dissatisfactions
placing a statue
where there was once a person.
Get my FREE Found Poetry handout here.
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