Before the Workshop:
I am not a poet. I don’t like writing poetry and I barely read poetry. But, I do have this wonderfully thick anthology somewhere on the bottom shelf of my bookshelf collecting dust. It looks deliciously worn, like I’ve spent all my time huddled under a blanket, flipping through its delicate pages, tearing a few on the way and being way too absorbed in the material to care.
Nope, that’s not it at all. I’m not a poet, nor am I kid who reads poetry. That anthology was borrowed from my school and never returned, oops. And, it’s not like I don’t want to learn about poetry—I really do. To quote Out of Order, by Betty Hicks (not a poem), “I’m easy!” It’s not as though I haven’t tried poetry, either. I’ve been trying poetry since elementary school. Then, in like, seventh grade I realized I sucked and quit. For many reasons: I rhyme too much, and almost exclusively, without fail, I sound pretentious, like I’m trying too hard.
To quote every pessimist who’s ever walked the face of this or any other planet, “I QUIT.”
But, I’m really not that pessimistic, especially when I’m pretending to be optimistic (like now) because I’m really rather excited about this (poetry).
After the Workshop:
Found poetry is poetry for people like me; people who aren’t, or feel they aren’t, eloquent or inspired enough to write more conventional poetry. To write found poetry, all you need at a block of text, white out, or a marker and a few minutes. It only takes a few minutes, seriously. You take the white out or marker and cross out any text you don’t need, saving a few words to create your new poem.
I went around to a few teachers and asked for books that no one wanted. One of my favorite teachers, Mike, gave me a book about Oklahoma City bombing called From Bacon’s Rebellion to the Oklahoma City Bombing, by Catherine McNichols Stock. With my handy bottle of white out, I changed the title to Bacon’s Rebellion City, by Cat Stock.
But—here’s the thing—don’t expect to pick up a book, cross out some words, and then have an anthology ready to show off to your friends. No. Like all writing, it’s going to take some time and practice to be good at Found Poetry. Here’s one poem that I wrote:
continue to remind
when examined in detail, proves
its members’ contempt for
This was my third stab at Found Poetry. But, this doesn’t seem much like a poem, does it? I know, I know. I imagine you’d need a really hip book for this, with cool words. But it was fun, so I don’t care that my poem is a statement. Found poetry is just like any other kind of poetry or writing where as long as the poem makes sense to the author, it’ll make sense to the reader, too.
Found poetry is a great thing to do with your time if you’d like to play around with language a bit (It’s more productive than going on tumblr every day and you’ll spend less time doing so). You get to string along someone else’s words and make them your own in a unique way. It’s like writing a story or an essay—you didn’t create the English language, so you’re taking someone else’s words and making them your own by putting your own thoughts into it.
A special tip:
Try to take out any words that make your poem about the subject of the original text. So if you decided to use a Harry Potter book for your found poetry exercise, take out anything about magic and avoid using Hermione’s name to avoid feeding off of the original author too much.