George McKim has been working at his “day job” for way too many years and he dreams about retirement every day. He has an MFA in Painting. He began writing poetry at the age of 56 and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Diagram, elimae, The Found Poetry Review, Glittermob, Dear Sirs, Shampoo, Ditch, Cricket Online Review, Otoliths, Blaze Vox, Poets and Artists Magazine, The Tupelo Press 30/30 Project and others. His chapbook of found poetry and visual poetry Found & Lost will be published by Silver Birch Press in December 2014. Follow him online at http://georgemckim.com/.
How would you define or describe found poetry in your own words?
Found poetry is making magic from the mundane and ordinary. Found poetry is using a limited set of words, from any given source other than my own writing, as a palette from which to create a poem. A painting professor of mine once said “a real artist can made a good painting from anything,” and I believe that applies to poets who write found poetry. The thing about found poetry that I like is that can take you out of your normal, sometimes stifling, writing process and it can stimulate you and help you grow by expanding your creative parameters.
Talk about your work that was published in FPR. How did you get the idea? What was the writing and revision process like for you?
I was a participant in the Pulitzer Remix project, and that was my first real experience writing found poetry. After that project I spent several months writing found poems from the poetry of contemporary poets, and I wrote about fifty or so poems. The poem that was published in FPR 7 was #19 of those poems (and, as a side note, my soon to be published chapbook Found & Lost is made up entirely of these poems).
I got the idea for the poem from reading cento poems. From that, I thought it would be interesting to make found poems not from entire lines of other poet’s poems, but from randomly selected words and a few short phrases from their poems. It was important for me not to rip off entire metaphors from other poems; that to me is stealing poetry. The writing process for me was generally to read each poem (I usually used at least two poems and usually from different poets) and select as many interesting words as possible. Most of the time I randomly selected the words ,and I think that it was the relationships between the randomly selected words that sparked ideas for my poems. I would then then go back and read through these words and edit out at least half of the words and re-arrange them to make one poem.
In what ways do consider found poetry similar to what others might call “traditional” poetry? In what ways is it notably different?
Found poetry can be anything you want it to be. Found words can be twisted and sculpted into a very accessible traditional poem or something very experimental and obtuse. I prefer work in the found realm that is more experimental and obtuse, or to use an art term, abstract.
What other writers working in the found and experimental space do you admire?
I admire Jackson MacLow’s work in the found and experimental space. I don’t claim to be any sort of authority on any aspect of poetry or poets, but from my limited knowledge he appears to me to be the most radical poet of the 20th century. His processes, particularly using computer programs to select words from various texts, have really changed what poetry can be.
What are you working on right now, poetry or otherwise?
Right now I’m working on a series of painting for an upcoming one person exhibition at ArtSpace in my town of Raleigh and writing a poem or two here and there. In poetry, I’ve been experimenting with using found text and randomly cutting parts of sentences and parts of words and pasting that cut text back in, in the “wrong” places, and that has produced some interesting results.