Thursday, May 22, 2008

Found Poems

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.

Examples of found poems can be seen in the work of Blaise Cendrars, David Antin, and Charles Reznikoff. In his book Testimony, Reznikoff created poetry from law reports, such as this excerpt:

Amelia was just fourteen and out of the orphan asylum;
at her
first job--in the bindery, and yes sir, yes ma'am,
oh, so
anxious to please. She stood at the table,
her blond hair hanging about her
"knocking up" for Mary and Sadie, the stichers

("knocking up" is counting books and stacking them in piles to
be taken away).

Excerpted from accessed 5/22/08.

The Wikipedia entry for 'found poem' agrees with the description given above.
According to Wikipedia, The first major example of the extended use of found
poetry is
Isidore Ducasse's Poesies. Also according to Wikipedia, Isidore
Ducasse is the pen name of one
Comte de Lautreamont. The Wikipedia entry contains
an interesting bit about his influence on
the early Surrealist writers.

I expanded the notion of found poetry for a prose poem I wrote. The poem came to
as I watched an episode of 'The Simpsons.' I don't have a title for this poem.

My grandfather usually sleeps at

Mass. Afterwards, when he talks to
the priest, he imagines doves
on the priest and carrying
him off
peacefully. Then my
grandfather wants
to take us
for ice cream.

Except for the ice cream, this was a scene in a Simpson's episode.
Grandpa Simpson
daydreamed while Reverend Lovejoy talked to him.
In his daydream, four doves
quietly came and grabbed onto
Lovejoy's clothes and carried him away while he
continued to talk
as though nothing had happened.

-- "It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement

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