Friday, April 10, 2015

Art of Composition--Found Poetry

Assignment #33 (for Friday April 10, Monday April 13):

First of all, what is "found poetry" and how does a writer go about creating one?
Read this article (at least the first 7 pages) for some instructions and a couple of examples:
Another example, from a story about a girl who loses her mother but remembers all the times she came home from school to smell her mother's cooking:
Read these for class 33 and bring a connected device. In class, we will work on locating prose sources for our found poems. Some from New York Times, at least one from another print source.
Here is the information for the New York Times found poetry contest, including the rules. We will write three different found poems, two of which will conform to the NYT rules, the third of which will come from another source.

Assignment #34 (due Tuesday April 14):

How to Write Found Poetry ( (Links to an external site.))
This page explains found poetry and how to write a poem using this exciting technique. At the bottom of the page, you'll find links to more creative writing lessons and tips.
How to write a found poem
A found poem uses language from non-poetic contexts and turns it into poetry. Think of a collage -- visual artists take scraps of newspaper, cloth, feathers, bottle caps, and create magic. You can do the same with language and poems.

Writing this type of poetry is a kind of treasure hunt. Search for interesting scraps of language, then put them together in different ways and see what comes out. Putting seemingly unrelated things together can create a kind of chemical spark, leading to surprising results.

You might end up rewriting the poem in the end and taking all the found language out, or you might keep the found scraps of language almost in their original form. Either way, found language is a great way to jolt your imagination.

There are no rules for found poetry, as long as you are careful to respect copyright.

Here are some potential sources of "treasure":
  • instruction books, recipes
  • horoscopes, fortune cookies
  • bulletin boards
  • science, math, or social science textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • graffiti
  • pieces of letters, post cards, phone messages, notes you've written for yourself
  • grocery lists, lists of all kinds
  • celebrity tweets (or so I've heard, having never ever in my whole entire life actually seen one)

Click here for found poem examples (Links to an external site.) by the poet Al Fogel.
Try it! Found poem ideas
Here are some ideas you can use to write your own found poetry:

1) Take parts of instructions for some appliance such as a microwave. Replace some of the words that refer to the appliance, using that words that talk about something else. For example: "Lift the memory carefully. Caution: edges may be sharp..."

Suggested poem topics:

  • falling in love
  • trying to forget something painful

2) Write a poem called "Possible Side Effects." Use phrases from the instructions for some medication in your house, and combine these with language from another source, such as newspaper headlines, advertisements, a TV guide, or a mail-order catalogue. Put these two very different elements together and see what happens.

Spend today’s class gathering samples of language. Look in some of the sources suggested above. Read the found poem adapted from the Chang-Rae Lee short story (Links to an external site.). Make sure you have read the first 7 pages of the article linked in assignment #33. Also browse the New York Times for articles. Look for pieces of prose that contain strong or evocative language, or ones that can be adapted to reveal hidden sources of humor, or drama, or which can be rewritten in condensed form to reveal surprising connections.
The assignment for this unit is to write THREE pieces of found poetry over the next week. The first may come from any source, while the second and third must contain language drawn from articles found on the New York Times website. One of these last two will be submitted to the contest, while the first allows you to practice the form using material from any source you choose.
A draft of your first found poem is due in class next time, class 34, Tuesday April 14. Bring BOTH the original text and your adapted, condensed version. We will work on the other two next week. Rules for the contest are listed here (Links to an external site.).