Posts Tagged ‘found poem’

For the past couple-three years now I’ve celebrated National Poetry Month with a personal challenge of tweeting upward of three original haiku or limericks a day for a month; a fun way to play a little and keep my wordsmithery focused. I usually followed this up by rounding-up the week’s tweets in one place to share with those who might have missed them in my twitter feed.

This year I decided to take myself and my writing a little more seriously and joined Pulitzer Remix, a month-long project where poets use a Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction as the basis for creating found poetry. Each of the participants — 85 of us, or 82, 80-something — has committed to creating and posting a new poem daily for National Poetry Month, which is going to yield an insane number of new poems when it’s all over.

My source book is “The Stories of John Cheever” from 1979. When choosing a book I wanted two things: a book published during my lifetime, and a collection of short stories where I could use each as the artificial confines from which I had to choose my words. The process I used in approaching each poem varied. For some I would glance through the story looking for interesting words or phrases to latch onto and see what they suggested. In other cases I went in with an attempt to try a particular form, structure or style — some less successfully than others. And sometimes I started with a title and tried to build from there. I should note is that the titles of all my poems are taken from the original stories themselves, near anagrams. I say near because I don’t end up using all the letters but I tried to use as many as would make sense.

Our agreement with the project is that we not repost our poems anywhere else until after the project is open, so with my weekly round-up I’ll be giving some background to the poems I’ve composed along with links to the full poems so you can check them out.

And while you’re there you should check out all the great work my fellow found poets are up to as well.

April 1: come monday

This was an early poem and took a while to coalesce. I wasn’t actually sure what, if anything, it was building up to until I came upon the phrase “the noise” mirrored at the beginning and end of the original story. It then became a question of contrasts that were bound by another mirrored word – want/wanted.

April 2: truce

For this poem, I had underlined some sections I liked and then, as I read them straight through, felt they both had the feel of a fever dream mixed with a sense of urgency. I formatted it a couple different ways before I finally settled on the tight column. I wanted it to look rigid and stiff (like the narrator’s flesh) and yet running down, running dry.

April 3: cohorts

The final structure of this poem owes a debt to Maurice Sendak’s book “Alligators All Around,” one of the tiny books in the Nutshell Library. I was actively hunting down adjectives, not really sure what I wanted to do with them, and they started to pair up nicely. In Sendak’s abcadarian the Aligators are doing things that start with one letter of the alphabet — N, Never Napping, O, Ordering Oatmeal, etc — and the resonance of that scheme just popped out at me. Not a perfect fit, but once I found the word “cohorts” in the original title, and then the phrase “fond models” I felt I’d gotten as close as I could.

April 4: Mutineer

This is actually one of the last poems I wrote, and it was because I was having problems whittling down all the material I had uncovered. As with most “lost” things, sometimes in order to find what you’re looking for you have to stop looking. After a few weeks put aside, I opened the story to a random page and found a section offset from the rest of the story that had everything I needed. The title was a happy gift.

April 5: to grieve

It took a while, but I finally found a story with a line that worked out as an ending but at the beginning, and so I pulled an e.e. cummings. Or rather a cummings-lite. With this story I started to get bugged by the way Cheever treated female characters, so I wanted something a little less… hysterical?

But enough about me, there is literally a sea of poems over at Pulitzer Remix, so if you really want to sink your teeth into a whole mess, I mean a monumental passel of poetic goodness, just head on over and jump right in! And in case you weren’t aware, there’s another whole roundup of poetry happening over at Robin Hood Black’s blog Read. Write. Howl.


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Somehow I started getting a subscription to Harper’s Magazine. Not that I mind, it was just so out of the blue. As usual, I start from the back of any magazine and read toward the front. I don’t remember when I started doing that, but maybe it’s because many magazines have a “back page” that is usually some sort of high note to leave the steady reader with. Not quite the magazine equivalent of a happy ending, but not far off either.

This month the back page consisted of a collection of findings from various scientific studies, some credited, some merely random statements. “The nose smells what it expects” stood out, as did some statements that kept referring simply to “the poor.” I thought there might be a found poem in all of this, a cross-out poem. I circled, I crossed out, doubled back and looked for new connections. Where I might have been able to manipulate what was on the page into something with more political weight or social commentary I am, at heart, a purist when it comes to cross-out poems – I believe the words should be used in the order they appeared on the page.

And so here it is, the great query in the differences between The People and Science.

how great?

reduce their carbon footprints, and
wear appropriate shoes.

easily embarrassed,
the fatalistic are less likely to
spread selfishness through human history.
times of crisis the poor suffer
rumor-mongering, collegial sabotage,
and employ the past tense

ambiguous janitors are more likely to be seen
the nose smells what it smells

psychologists suggest that the poor
are overrated; the
broken will give their lives
when upset

avoid inbreeding
and the
existence of rainbows

Robyn is handling the hosting duties of Poetry Friday this week over at Read, Write, Howl. That totally sounds like a manual for daily life. Go, read a little, write a little, howl a lot!


I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me sooner, but I realized that perhaps people might want to see the original page I worked over to achieve the stunning masterpiece above. Consider this a “show your work” or a source attribution if you will. I’m pretty sure if you click on the image it will grow to a more legible size.

In all it's green Sharpie glory

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Near where I live three former cow paths which are now roads come together at an awkward angle to create what people in New England call an intersection. On-coming cars actually face off against one another, and left turns are only attempted by the locals who know the invisible dead spot in the middle where they are out-of-the-way of crossing traffic. And just to make it interesting, this is the main intersection in front of a K-8 school, throwing tiny pedestrians into the mix.

Among all the madness there are road signs, but the one that I’ve always liked was a white rectangle with a stack of four-letter words neatly arranged one atop the other.


They could have said “left turn only” or used one of those international symbols with the word “only” beneath it, but instead they went with what I only recently realized was a poetic solution to a simple direction at an inelegant passing.

With that in mind, I collected a list of four-letter words found on traffic, parking, and other common road signs and came up with the following collection of semi-found sign poetry.







I couldn’t resist reusing “zone” because I seem to have a vague memory of a disco-era LP that had a pair of young dancers cheek-to-cheek (and I ain’t talking faces) with a road sign above it that said “bump zone.”

Poetry Friday is stop-and-go down at Carol’s Corner this week, so be sure to look both ways and drive safe.

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After posting last week’s Poetry Friday entry I was out and about when I saw a bunch of cards blowing around in the street. Some poor kid from the nearby high school lost a couple dozen of their study notes for class, notes penned in green marker, crammed into 3 by 5 card that had been cut in half.

I like how in their fragmented way they read like poetry. Almost, not quite. I was going to post two of them as-written for Poetry Friday and then realized that all it would take to make them interesting was to change a couple words. And then once I did that I thought it would make for a nice little open exercise for all you wonderfully creative folks out there.

Here they are. They can be combined, reversed, whatever makes sense. Feel free to complete them as you see fit in the comments.

______ is neither
created nor

a given _______
always contains
exactly the same
_______ of _______
by _______

And check out what everyone else is up to on Poetry Friday, the round-up is over at A Wrung Sponge.

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