How to Write a Found Poem: Thrift Shop Flowers

Found poetry is the literary version of a collage. The poems are made up of words taken from a printed document such as a newspaper article, a speech, a menu, junk mail, or even another poem (or in this case, a book on flowers from a thrift shop). The poet selects words from the document and rearranges them to create a poem.

As we’ve discussed before, found poetry might feel a little like cheating because you have a group of pre-selected words to choose from but it isn’t cheating. In fact, writing a poem in this way may be more difficult because of the limitations placed on the poet. In any case, it’s a fun challenge and since you are restricted by the words you can use, your poem will most likely end up being very different from the poems you usually write. They can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Found poems will get you out of the box!

Here’s a simple found poem with words taken from the first page of a book on flowers that I snagged at a thrift store.

  1. Select a page of text.
  2. Find specific nouns and verbs in your document, any words you find interesting or inspiring.
  3. Write these words on a separate sheet of paper in random order. Taking them out of context will help you to see them differently. Use each word only once.
  4. Try to keep the words as they were found without additions or omissions.
  5. The poetry form (line breaks and stanza structure) is left to the poet.
  6. What meaning do the chosen words have? Shuffle the words around until you have written a free verse poem. 
  7. Go back to the document and find pronouns as you need them. 
  8. You get bonus points if you find the title in the text.
  9. Either draw boxes around your words to create the poem on the original document (as I did above) or write the poem on a separate piece of paper.
  10. Take care to find only words or a small grouping of words (not full phrases) as not to plagiarize.

Poetry is better when shared! I hope you’ll give writing a found poem a try and share it with us. For those of you who would like to share or comment anonymously, I’ve created settings to allow you to do so. Simply reply without signing into your WordPress account. If you’re looking for more examples of found poems, check out this post.

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