I was recently challenged to work with new media and during the course of my exploration of that idea I rediscovered a really fun creative challenge – Found Poetry.
According to 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.”
Found Poetry was especially popular during the 20th century during the Pop Art movement, but is still alive and well today. There is even a Found Poetry Review publishing collections of found poetry and sharing prompts.
The Found Poetry Review suggests that found poetry is typically created in one of four primary forms:
Erasure (aka Blackout): Poets take an existing source (usually limited to one or a few pages) and erase the majority of the text, leaving behind select words and phrases that, when read in order, compose the poem.
Free-form excerpting and remixing: Poets excerpt words and phrases from their source text(s) and rearrange them in any manner they choose (much like a collage)
Cento: Poets unite lines from other authors’ writings into a new poem. The original lines remain intact; the main intervention comes in arrangement and form.
Cut-up: Poets physically cut or tear up a text into words and phrases, then create a poem by rearranging those strips. Arrangement may be intentional or haphazard. Read more about the cut-up method of composition.
I share these forms to give you an idea of the range of creative play you can enjoy with this type of poetry. Here is a piece of found poetry I recently created inspired by an opinion piece written by Elinor Burkett for the New York Times Sunday Review (June 6, 2015). While this is not really erasure that is probably the closest description as I did not rearrange the order although I did make a few additions of ellipses and bracketed words to denote my addition. Check out my (Re)Mediated [Found] Poem based on “What Makes A Woman?” [If you are interested you can read more about the challenge that originally led me to this work on my Metawriting blog]
You can learn more about Blackout poetry (another version of erasure where you simply black out the portions of the page you are not using for your poem). Bitrebels.com explains the process of creating blackout poems and shares some examples and you can learn still more at Austin Kleon’s NewspaperBlackout.com.
Why not create your own Found Poem today? The Found Poetry Review offers some prompts on their web site as well on their Twitter feed, but there could be all sorts of other fun sources from editorial pages, blogs, Twitter feeds, comment feeds, and so much more! I’ve created another poem based on another opinion piece (Who defines marriage?) and here is something about my hometown of Mt. Sterling, KY. Update: My newest found poem in response to a CLMOOC prompt: Connection.
Update: I just discovered an entirely new type of Found Poem called a Cento. This poem consists only of lines from other poems. This, from the Italian word for patchwork, is almost a technique rather than a form, especially as it can be of any length, and any metre, and need not rhyme; however, as the finished poem is referred to as a cento, just as a sonnet is called a sonnet, it is a form. I love this idea and would like to begin playing with it soon. I can imagine all sorts of fun ways to use this for a class or group activity as well as a personal reflection.
Where can you find inspiration for your found poetry? It does not matter what you write. It just matters that you #JustWrite!