Found Poem

I like to gather words and phrases. I suspect most poets do.

This is why I like Found Poems–because all I need is a handful of phrases, and I can twist them together, do some snipping here and trimming there, and voila! A poem.

If you’ve never written a Found Poem, you are missing out. So here’s your assignment:

Find three books or magazines that are very different from each other. I chose Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, Living on a Few Acres from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1978), and the March special issue of Scientific American. I flipped them open at random pages and gathered five phrases from each:

Just a name
Nests burned too easily
Men of repute and integrity
A drag on the public purse
I’ll credit you at least
Where water can’t accumulate
You should shop comparatively
Vegetables are appealing
Do the pruning manually
Overfed and underworked
The neural underpinnings
Stronger emphasis on brilliance
Potentially a giant tinderbox
How we see color
Inserted below the armpit

My rules for Found Poems are basically that you can bend the lines however you want to in order to make them fit. Add words. Take words away. Combine lines. Or, heck, just make something up. And don’t try to fit all of the words into the poem. I wanted to use “inserted below the armpit,” but I just couldn’t make it work.

The idea, at least for me, is to create a poem that hints at meaning. It will likely be more opaque than a lot of the other poems you write. But that’s okay. Let the reader have some fun with it.

I’ll credit you
At least
With the neural underpinnings
Of brilliance,
Oh man of repute and integrity.
Overfed and underworked,
You might be a giant tinderbox,
Or a mere bird’s nest,
Already burning.
Or maybe you are
Just a name.
That’s how we see color.

Now it’s your turn. Gather up some phrases, put them in a bag and shake ’em up, and then toss out a poem. Drop the results in the comments down below.


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