I adore found poetry, because it makes what I’ve already known obvious: poetry is everywhere, and it’s for everybody.
If you are unfamiliar with found poetry, it is just as it sounds. Found poetry is poetry that is found, and so instead of coming up with the words entirely yourself the way a poem is typically accomplished, you instead find the lines, words, and phrases, and they can be taken from absolutely anywhere except poetry books. In other words, found poetry can come from any place that wasn’t intended to be poetry.
Found poets are the hunters and gatherers of words, and they pluck them from magazines or menus or signs in bus stations or wherever they’re hiding out, just waiting to be admired. Poetry lurks around street corners, is scribbled on bathroom stalls, burrowed in brochures, direction manuals, magazines, and advertisements. Poetry exists in prose, Facebook posts, and in handwritten letters, which are magic, if you didn’t already know this.
To write a good found poem, you mainly need to recognize what sounds beautiful, powerful, interesting. And it helps to know a thing or two about craft. You can adjust punctuation, cut unnecessary words, play with line breaks, re-arrange phrases.
I think that found poetry means so much to me because I see it as poetry that is for the people—not just for those who have mastered how to write a thesis statement and make solid literary arguments. And there’s less pressure because you don’t have to come up with the words entirely on your own, either. Found poetry is a diner and form poems are fine dining (I fancy form poems too, by the way, especially the rondeau.)
I’ll end by sharing two found poems that I crafted recently. I’ve been writing a lot of them lately (and non-found poems, too). I hope you enjoy them. Both appeared in Neptune Magazine, created by Denzel Johnson-Green. If you’re interested in getting your copy of Neptune, which features St. Pete poets and artists, email Denzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers to poetry showing up in all the spaces of this messy, beautiful, and often-complicated life.
Inscription in a Margaret Atwood
This is a rather
beat up looking
book but it
was the only
I’m beat up and you like
me. Maybe you’ll
like this too.
Grandma’s Brown Spots
a found poem: from Aunt Cheryl’s Facebook comment under a picture of age-spotted hands with bright pink manicured nails
my mom always lamented
her brown spots, yet
when she passed,
the only organ
she was able to donate
was her skin.
I was told
was a burn victim.
Thanks for reading! See you next week!