What Is Found Poetry?

I admit that I was enjoying found poetry long before I knew it had a name. The following definition is from the Academy of American Poets:

“Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.”

The Guardian article “Poster Poems: Found Poetry” provides a good overview of the history and range of found poetry, including William Carlos Williams’ famous “This is just to say,” which began as a refrigerator note.

Early in my reading of my great aunt Hattie’s Great Plains diaries I was struck by the poetry of many of her entries. Hers is neither a rhyming nor an abstract poetry, but an earthy poetry of candor, concrete words, and lived experience, as this example (a “golden shovel” poem) shows:

April 5, 1934

Another dust storm dark and thick. You
couldn’t see the sun, no weather fit
for even necessary work, continued into
evening after supper. Sophie helped me

dye my faded brown-red dress like
new to black, but it was not a
pretty black so replaced bent hook
at collar, hemmed, and made into

an everyday dress, also used an
old overall for nail apron and extra eye
for clasp. After I lay down for a
nap, Ben brought us sixteen club fish

he caught with just a pole and hook
so fried them up for supper. Will put an
egg in bottle for magic work to cut open
the fistula festering near Mike’s eye.

You can read more found poetry from Hattie’s diaries here, and explore these found poetry resources:

Photo credit: takomabibelot, Poetry, Mosaic Ceiling (Washington, DC), CC BY 2.0

Photo credit: takomabibelot, Poetry, Mosaic Ceiling (Washington, DC), CC BY 2.0
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