What is Found Poetry?
A Found Poem is one in which the words come from a source and are given new context by a poet.
The idea of Found Poetry is highly correlated to the idea of ownership. This concept was explored by the Dadaists—a highly experimental, surreal art movement of the early 20th Century. Famously in 1917, Marcel Duchamp entered a urinal into an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists. He did not create the urinal, but it was he who declared it to be piece of art by his own hand.
Found poetry works much in the same way. Marquive Stenzel described this “readymade” philosophy as the genesis of the Found Poetry form.
Found Poetry has been created from everything from mechanics handbooks to the speeches of former U.S. Secretary of Defence—notably his “known unknowns” speech, later published in Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld by Hart Seely.
This work proved highly influential, with many comedians returning to the trope, notably Conan O’Brien who has twice invited actors and spoken word artist to recite the words of Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska and former U.S Vice-Presidential candidate.
More recently, British comedian Dave Gorman highlighted the form in a segment of his TV series ‘Modern Life is Goodish,’ during which he would recite comments found on various news articles, often of a hyperbolic nature.
Outlets such as Verbatim Poetry and The Found Poetry Review have continued to showcase this form.
While anyone can write text, it is the poet who contextualises it and dubs it poetry.
The poet may wish to employ a number of techniques to build poems, such as transcribing extracts of overheard conversation, collage in the manner of cut-up poetry, or editing a single body of non-poetic text such as blackout poetry.
Found Poetry can be found in innumerable forms, though it is particularly rewarding when internal rhymes are found within a given text.
Found Poetry can be an excellent way of drafting new poems and fighting through writers’ block as the initial writing is handled by another writer.
In recent years, it has become an excellent tool of satirists, with a number of politicians having their words edited into poetic form. This works by holding statements of a controversial nature to scrutiny not as rhetoric but as art, inviting critique and discussion.
© 2019 Connor Sansby
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Connor Sansby is a Margate-based writer, editor, poet and publisher through his super-indie Whisky & Beards publishing label.