“Happy poets who write found poetry go pawing through popular culture like sculptors on trash heaps. They hold and wave aloft usable artifacts and fragments: jingles and ad copy, menus and broadcasts — all objet trouvés, the literary equivalents of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans and Duchamp’s bicycle. By entering a found text as a poem, the poet doubles its context. The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles. The poet adds, or at any rate increases, the element of delight. This is an urban, youthful, ironic, cruising kind of poetry. It serves up whole texts, or interrupted fragments of texts.” — Annie Dillard
Put another way, found poetry is the literary version of a collage. Poets select a source text or texts — anything from traditional texts like books, magazines and newspapers to more nontraditional sources like product packaging, junk mail or court transcripts — then excerpt words and phrases from the text(s) to create a new piece.
Here at The Found Poetry Review, we prefer to publish ‘treated’ poems, where poets go beyond the simple addition of line breaks to create pieces whose form and meaning differs from the originals. Other venues accept ‘untreated’ poems where the poet intervenes only to add line breaks or spacing.
Types of Found Poetry
Poets employ a variety of techniques to create found poetry. Common forms and practices include:
- Erasure: Poets take an existing source (usually limited to one or a few pages) and erase the majority of the text, leaving behind select words and phrases that, when read in order, compose the poem. Examples include Tom Phillips’ A Humument, Jen Bervin’s Nets and Austin Kleon’s newspaper blackouts, just to name a few.
- Free-form excerpting and remixing: Poets excerpt words and phrases from their source text(s) and rearrange them in any manner they choose
- Cento: Poets unite lines from other authors’ writings into a new poem. The original lines remain intact; the main intervention comes in arrangement and form. Read more about centos.
- Cut-up: Poets physically cut or tear up a text into words and phrases, then create a poem by rearranging those strips. Arrangement may be intentional or haphazard. Read more about the cut-up method of composition.
Found Poetry and Fair Use
The Found Poetry aims to adhere to section two of American University’s Center for Social Media’s “Code of Best Uses in Fair Use for Poetry,” copied in its entirety below
NEW WORKS “REMIXED” FROM OTHER MATERIAL: ALLUSION, PASTICHE, CENTOS, ERASURE, USE OF “FOUND” MATERIAL, POETRY-GENERATING SOFTWARE
DESCRIPTION: What is now called remixing is a contemporary version of allusion or pastiche and has long been an important part of poetic practice. In general, it takes existing poetry (or literary prose) as its point of reference. In some cases, however, the stuff of poetic remix may come from other sources, including (but not limited to) advertising copy and ephemeral journalism. Members of the poetry community also recognize that technology has extended the range of techniques by which language from a range of sources may be reprocessed as new creative work.
PRINCIPLE: Under fair use, a poet may make use of quotations from existing poetry, literary prose, and non-literary material, if these quotations are re-presented in poetic forms that add value through significant imaginative or intellectual transformation, whether direct or (as in the case of poetry-generating software) indirect.
- –Mere exploitation of existing copyrighted material, including uses that are solely “decorative” or “entertaining,” should be avoided.
- –Likewise, the mere application of computer technology does not, in itself, render quotation or re-use of an existing poem fair.
- –If recognizable in the final product, quotations should be brief in relation to their sources, unless there is an articulable rationale for more extensive quotation.
- –The poet should provide attribution in a conventionally appropriate form unless it would be truly impractical or artistically inappropriate to do so.