Wednesday, 20 July 2011

'Found' Poetry

Have you heard of 'found' poetry?

It's when you see something written down that's not supposed to be poetry but has some kind of resonance for you. I often look at some little piece of writing...

"Everything must go"

"Keep out of the reach of children"

...and think it has hidden messages.

It's alright, I'm not schizophrenic, I'm a poet.

There are a couple of nice examples on Wikipedia, including this taken from pieces of text in "An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics":

Hence no force, however great,
can stretch a cord, however fine,
into a horizontal line
which is accurately straight.

I mention all this only because I have a deeply autobiographical poem called 'Certificates' in a brand new online publication out this week: Found Poetry.

My poem uses phrases taken from my certificates of birth, marriage and....

...divorce (hands up who thought I was going to get all spooky and say 'death'?)

I'm in two minds about some of the other poems in this publication which make new poems from phrases in other people's existing ones... which seems a bit cheaty to me.

So, just out of interest, why don't you look around you for phrases in instructions, manuals, signs, magazines, begging letters, sermons and statute books... and put your mini 'found' poem in the comments?


  1. I write my sermons with a deliberate attempt to put words and phrases together so that they flow easily and (hopefully) memorably, including repeating words, and rhymes. So poetry found therein is, often, quite deliberate.

  2. I remember the instructions on how to open a cereal packet:
    'Slide finger under flap, and move from left to right.'
    My dad used to put his finger under the flap, and then move (his feet), from left to right!
    We used to find this funny, but you probably had to be there....

  3. I love found poetry. Here's a sort of haiku made up of phrases from a test of audio software:

    Slang word for raw whiskey is booze.
    It caught its paw in a rusty trap.
    The bark of the pine tree was shiny and dark.

  4. Ah, I love those magnets. Found poetry is a wonderful thing, and your "Certificates" is a terrific example. I loved your inclusion of a detail about the physical certificate.

    As usual, I've nothing of my own to contribute, but I did race off to my bookshelves for a poem I remembered that used found materials. I couldn't find it, so can only say it was a real delight: by Robin Becker. It may have been called "Home Economics," and I believe she used phrases from old Home Economic textbooks. Very hard to do found poetry successfully, I would think, but quite wonderful when it works.

    (Hey, so glad you stopped by and found something relaxing to read--I know that's not the usual over my way!)

  5. Oh I remember being set the task of finding found poetry at uni and then never being able to look at a shampoo bottle (etc) the same way again! Quite fun really, but you have to feel sorry for the poor copywriters who're tasked with 'texting' such things...

  6. I thought I'd commented back but I'm not there! 8-(
    Dave - You're going to HAVE to get them on YouTube!

    Martin - I forgot which post you were commenting on there and thought you were being.... oh, never mind!

    sEAN - Wow! That's got a surreal, dream-like quality to it (but then, I have very odd dreams!)

    Susan - Thank you for reading it! I'm not sure it's harder than any other kind of poetry, but there are a few bad examples out there because people think it's easy... if you see what I mean?

    RoxyB - Hello and welcome! I love the idea of not being able to look at things in the same way again... it's like you took the red pill, eh?

  7. Hello Claire. I’ve only just found your blog, which is silly as I’ve been following Poetry 24 for ages (and Martin’s blog). The magnetic letters caught my eye as I used them as a header for my blog (though mine were based on the words of the bard himself!). I’ve never heard of found poetry, or if I have I’d forgotten, now I too will be seeking and hoping to find.

  8. Hello and welcome! Yes, I know my blog is silly!! ;-) To be fair, it's more usually 'lost poetry' around my place!