Contrary to popular belief, found poetry is not when you detect a discarded poem fluttering in a bush, trampled in grime on the subway floor or sneakily baked into a Victorian dessert.
Found poems are not poems that have been dropped romantically like handkerchiefs on country lanes for others to pick up, or like terror-inducing verse bombs from the air.
Found poetry is when you magically excavate poetry from some other text. Some people (poetry finders) believe that potential poems are embedded in almost everything you read; it’s just a matter of trimming the prosaic fat. For a quick demonstration and a bookwormy trip down memory lane, check out puliterremix.com. Even if you don’t read the poems, just go there to feast your peepers on decades upon decades of novel cover art. You won’t regret it.
But you might feel inadequate when you realize how few Pulitzer-prize-winning novels you have actually read. Case in point: I don’t even hit double digits. I hope you can brush these feelings aside and think of all of the things that you have accomplished. Maybe you have a wicked backhand in tennis, maybe you’ve figured out how to fix the traffic disaster in Moscow or how to prepare my grandmother’s Pennyslvania Dutch egg cheese. Remember that life is not about cultural conquest, so much as relationships, self-discovery, compassion, old family recipes and inner wholeness. That’s what most of these novels are trying to tell you anyway.
I understand how some people might be skeptical, even angry at first about found poetry. Isn’t “finding” poetry kind of lazy, kind of plagiarism-y? Well, yes and no. It doesn’t take as much skill as finding a novel, say. or finding a stage play. What I’d really like to see is someone find a novella within a novel, one with a completely different plot and genre. Like maybe within 1984 is a book called 98 about a group of girls coming of age in a repressed English village.
“Finding” poetry is really just a game, a mental challenge for long road trips across the Mojave or Victorian-drink-themed parties (see below). I was a little skeptical at first, but then I tried it. And it worked!
Look at this poem about a sad and ruthless social climber I found in a Spongebob coloring book:
The business of Sheldon J. Plankton
is to steal success
below the formula.
Failed, he is you.
And this one about a dyslexic sandwich:
Pttay Mstuard Myao
In the Blackbird Buvette brunch menu, I found a poem about some guy who is in a confusing romantic relationship.
Whole in the center
A smear of red
a drizzle held and mixed
Two whole eyes twist
Marble or Honey.
And in my electric bill, the most poignant poem of all:
Gail, your last You
Before current Other.
Are these found poems actually good? No, they’re not. But still. Try it. Try to find some poetry. It will give you the shivers.
Oh, I know! You can try it at my found poetry party where I hand out things like medical clinic patient surveys, and tax booklets and my Amish cookbook. Then we’ll all workshop them into stunning and macabre poems. Then there will be a reading. Please tell me if you’d like to come! If you hate poetry as a matter of principle, you can just come for the Victorian drinks–punches, sours, slings, flips, toddies…the sort of liquid courage Victorians would knock back on steamships or at hotels in Singapore.
If this sounds like a fun time, email me asap or repondez-vous in the comment section.
Happy Poetry Month!