Found poetry is the literary version of a collage. The poems are made up of text that was never meant to be a poem, like a newspaper article, speech, menu, or even junk mail. The poet selects words and rearranges them to create a poem. I love writing found poems, since I am restricted by the words I can use, my poems usually end up being very different from the poems I usually write.
Here’s my attempt, use the slider on the images to switch from the before text to my final found poem.
I found the poem, MISTAKE, from words on one page of the Great Gatsby. When reading the text, I was immediately drawn to the words “get away from him,” which became my jumping-off point for the subject of the poem.
The words I ended up using are underlined in red. As you can see, I couldn’t find the word “not,” so I used part of the word “nothing”. This isn’t ideal. The best Found poems are written without additions or omissions. But, hey, I did get bonus points since the title, came from the working text!
HERE ARE THE RULES:
- Select a page of text.
- Underline or highlight specific words in your document, specific nouns and verbs, any words you find interesting or inspiring.
- Write these words on a separate sheet of paper in random order. Taking them out of context will help you to see them differently.
- What meaning do the chosen words have? Shuffle the words around until you have written a free verse poem.
- Go back to the document and find pronouns as you need them.
- Your poem will usually end up being about an entirely different subject from that of the original grouping of text.
- You get bonus points if you find the title in the text as well.
- Try to keep the words as they were found without additions or omissions.
- The poetry form (line breaks, stanzas) is left to the poet.
- Take care to find only words or a small grouping of words (not full phrases) as not to plagiarize.
BEHIND THE POEM
Some of the earliest found poetry was written by poet, Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) in the reworking of his book, Testimony, which is based on court testimony about Nazi death camps during World War II.