Found Poetry (part 1)

Found Poetry

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 one of the poems I crafted, this one with lines found within Buck Warren's The Silence Within from 1973. I'll write more about the process and the lines themselves in part 2.

Standing on Cadillac Mountain in Maine


On the cool blue of the sky

     in and out among the clouds

I stood against the morning and held it back 

for just one wild, wonderful moment 

     I touched a star—

the first threshold of space.


Once, I wished it was tomorrow

     thinking of your eyes—

the happiness we were back then

sharing the stillness of the night

now shadows to face

     from a crying cloud,

the skies you showed me.


I am thankful that I know reality—

For a smile is a jewel

     that can light a fire, even

in the dark places where stars are but

a dream of becoming.


I’ve looked for you over mountains…

I’ve felt the sea—

     not with expectant hands or frightened feet

but there will be an hour

within this one wild, wonderful moment

when there is promise 

     within the infinite playground.


The rain teaches humility

and I am thankful that I know reality—

that shadows and stars

     are really one and the same, and if

I can put a smile in the heart of everyone I see,

then I will surely have succeeded.

Image by Jose Antonio Alba - Pixabay


poetry, writing

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