On the Creation of Found Poetry

Kitten Umberto making her first escape from the kitten box

Kitten Umberto making her first escape from the kitten box

On the Creation of Found Poetry
a sijo

In a dismal pile are found
stray words from many sources

thrown in a blender, tortured with forks
and aged six years in wooden casks

then inscribed by persian slave
calligraphers upon the floor


This poem was included in my poetry book ‘Where the Opium Cactus Grows’. This post has been shared on Poets United’s Poetry Pantry #209

OK, this is a poem in one method, (sijo) describing another type of poetry altogether. It was one of my earliest sijo attempts that seemed to work out to my satisfaction. I particularly like the part about the poem being ‘aged six years in wooden casks’. I don’t actually age my poems and other writings six years, but I do like to put them aside to ‘age’ and then re-evaluate them.

Found Poetry and Me

While I have been using some degree of found poetry in my work almost since the beginning, pure found poetry from a single source has a stench of plagiarism about it. Like alleged found poet Hart Seely, who wrote a found poetry book where the single source was the press releases of Donald Rumsfeld arranged in poem-like lines. It seems to be common to use alleged found poetry of this sort to express hatred and contempt for another person whose political views you don’t like. Personally I think hating someone for being a Republican or a Democrat isn’t any nobler than hating someone for being a Jew or a Black person— but maybe that’s just me. Wikipedia: Found Poetry

What I use in my own work is not pure found poetry, but one which uses found elements from several sources. While I often select the material almost at random, it is my work in arranging the words, in rejecting some lines and keeping others, that makes such a poem mine and not the work of others. I also incorporate lines of more ordinary poetry created by me to link the found lines together.

In an internet source that explains how to do found poetry in a dreary school classroom setting, it recommends finding a theme as a step in the work. WRONG! Theme-stuff is how you end up with Hart Seely publishing a poetry book of a hated public figure’s words. Deciding themes at that point turns the work from poetry to you preaching your opinion at people.

The theme of my works incorporating found poetry are in part suggested by my original found lines. I suppose my subconscious mind may be working on the theme issue but my conscious mind is busy looking at the words and combinations of words, seeking out words/combinations with a strong impact, powerful images, interesting sound combinations, or just stuff that’s funny or weird enough to please me.

Knowing the true theme usually comes after I’ve lived with the poem long enough to see new things in it. And if a reader of the poem sees an entirely different theme, that’s good too.

That’s my poetry stuff for the week. Maybe next time I’ll post a poem that uses the found poetry technique instead of one that just talks about it.


6 thoughts on “On the Creation of Found Poetry

  1. I really like your poem! And I agree with your sentiments: “Personally I think hating someone for being a Republican or a Democrat isn’t any nobler than hating someone for being a Jew or a Black person— but maybe that’s just me.” Well said.

  2. Enjoyed your poem. Found poetry sounds intriguing, particularly your opinions on it. I haven’t experimented with it yet, and the ambiguous line between found poetry and plagiarism will probably scare me off. But it does sound fun to read

  3. i think sijo is a very lovely form. (i wonder how it sounds in its native korean). i have a couple of sijo aging in my hard disk. still seem incomplete to me.

    about found poetry. i am not too much of a fan of it. it seems like, well, the work is not entirely yours. but i have a couple of them aging in my hard disk too. 🙂
    i really like your opinions on found poetry, very refreshing.

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