Found Poetry

a found poem by James Lanante

Last week was found poetry week. My Creative Writing students and I went to an international book fair where I asked them to list down titles, passages, lines and words that would eventually be part of their found poem. Thanks to Found Poetry Review for legal and academic definitions and great samples, such as:

by Clare Kirwan

Birth 1964
(creased with folding)

witness my hand
I do hereby certify
that this is a true copy
a name given to a child
in the prescribed form
which can be obtained
on application

Marriage 1985
(green watermark)

spinster 21 years
it is an offence
to make or knowingly use
intending to be accepted as genuine
knowing it to be false
to the prejudice of any person
rank or profession
printed by authority
according to the rites
a register
in my custody

Divorce 1987
(stark white)

making decree
no. of matter
no such cause
having been shown
final and absolute

Source: Taken from text on Clare’s birth, marriage and divorce certificates

I also used definition: 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. A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

There are different ways to create found poems. For my Basic Creative Writing class for non-creative writing students, we used the cut-up technique. I cut up words and phrases from different school memoranda and photocopied poems; I asked the students to create a poem out of them. Below is Gabriel Samaniego’s “A Perfect Evening”:


Below if Fred Espina III’s poem entitled “What We Love”


“The Dead” is by Mary Ann Caharop


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