Found Poetry: From the Notes

Hey look, that rarest of all creatures on this blog: A Picture. I’ve been inspired by a friend to try out found poetry in combination with collage. I wasn’t all that happy with some aspects of my collage, so I drew it and added the red outline (totally copied from googled images of found poetry) and the panoramic view of the Thames waterfront (totally copied from Anthony van den Wyngaerde’s sketches).

Found Poem Notes

(You can click on the image to enlarge it if my handwriting is too hard to read at this resolution.)

The Method to my Madness: I discovered in making this that in spite of being an apparently common educational aid in high school, found poetry is exceedingly hard to do well. (Never mind connecting the resulting text to an image like a collage). Most of the educational stuff seems to focus on developing summarizing skills rather than solid poetic content.

It takes longer than you might think to choose and cut out all the little pieces of paper. I went sort of crazy because I wasn’t happy with the intial 15 phrases I cut out, and ended up with a total of 125 cuttings. Every twenty cuttings or so I had fun rearranging the pile and discovering associations that hadn’t occurred to me while I was reading the source texts. For example, “bantered with the orange-girls” is an interesting phrase but the associations are kind of limited.

Speaking of reading, I hadn’t realized before how complex “found reading” is. You have to be good at multitasking, or else make a list of what you’re looking for and reread for each item separately. I tried to read for 1) words that could be connected by vertical alignment, 2) words within words, 3) funky noun pairs, 4) prepositions and articles that I thought might come in handy, 5) rhyme and alliteration, and 6) the intended content of the text, in hopes of getting thematic inspiration – beginning with 1, 4, and 5 and adding the others as they occured to me, so that by the end I was trying to read in six different ways at once, which is somewhat impossible. Highschool students do this, you say? Inconceivable!

(The collage I constructed after I had a few phrases that really struck me. When I finished it I added new cuttings and removed old ones until I thought they could form a coherent whole with a reasonable connection to the picture. For anyone who wants to make one of their own, but doesn’t have a concrete plan for a corresponding poem, I recommend beginning with image first.)

In short, a laborious but rewarding process. Readers, if you make found poetry, I’d be interested to hear your methods.


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