How to Write Found Poetry

How to Write Found Poetry


These days, people are turning to art or poetry while stuck at home, because they want to feel something other than being at home. One way to feel something different and exciting is to craft a found poem.

Rita Dove, a former United States poet laureate, said that poetry is “the bones and the skeleton of the language. It teaches you, if nothing else, how to choose your words.”

The hardest part about writing a poem is choosing the right words. A found poem is created by cutting and pasting words found in another text; your text will be a newspaper or magazine. You will steal words you like by cutting them out and pasting them on a sheet of paper. But wait, you might be asking, what makes a strong poem? A poem is an experience, and a poem is a grouping of words that makes the reader feel something.

There are no real rules, but there is a topic: finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Something is extraordinary when something ordinary, or common, takes you by surprise or makes you gasp.

You will need any print publication, some paper, a pen, scissors and some glue or tape. Here’s a secret: All artists steal. Steal your way into a found poem by following these steps:

Find a work space. Find a flat space like a floor, a table or a desk. Maybe play your favorite song or TV show in the background for inspiration. Or, choose a quiet setting. Your work space is your creative universe, so be comfortable.

Brainstorm. Create a list of extraordinary moments. Look out for something small but exceptional around your apartment, outside your window, or maybe when you are out for a walk. It may be an act of kindness or, a shock of color on a flower or the wing of a bird; it could be a conversation you overhear, or an emotion you feel while talking to a friend, reading a book or watching a movie. The extraordinary is all around you; all you need to do is look. Pick a moment and start thinking of words that describe it. Jot them down.

Snip. Snip. Snip. Start cutting out all the words and phrases that relate to your moment. Having trouble? Try not to think so much and just cut. What words sound good to you when you say them aloud? What words help you visualize your extraordinary moment? Search the paper and neatly cut them out. Place them in a pile. Cut out duplicate words (you might want them later) and cut out words of different font sizes.

Layout. Before you start pasting your words into lines of poetry, lay them out and rearrange them. How will you create your poem? A poem is made up of lines that form groups of words called stanzas (Italian for room). Let your paper be the house of your poem. How many rooms will you build? One, two or more? Do you want long lines or short lines? Play with their position until you have them just right.

You may want to use a poetic device like a simile (a comparison with “like” or “as”), a metaphor (a comparison without “like” or “as”) or a rhyme. Maybe use repetition to play with sound, or cut two words and paste them together to make a word you can’t find. Try indenting lines or creating extra white space in or around your words and lines for a visual effect.

Paste. Ready? Carefully paste each word down, and now you have your own found poem.

Poetry isn’t scary, especially when you already have the words. See the found poem accompanying this article, which was created from its text. Have fun.



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