Poetry Prompt: Top 40 “Remix”


This post is part of a series of weekly found poetry prompts. If you have an idea for a found poetry source, email Senior Poetry Editor Beth Ayer.

Confession: I generally dislike song lyric poetry. That is, found poetry written using song lyrics as source text. It’s not for some dislike of top 40 pop music (although); in fact, writing poetry from more poetic lyrics is probably harder to do well. Why?  Well, lyrics are poetry…sort of. But while many song lyrics are crafty if not downright ingenious, they usually leave much to be desired without the accompanying music. This is why they are song lyrics and not poems. Somehow this “almost-poetry” status seems to lull poetry remixers into complacency. The original voice and context tempts us, and suddenly we find ourselves donning sunglasses at night and nonchalantly flashing the peace sign. (Of course, I jest).

That said, I believe we can create original poetry from nearly any source material. So let’s give song lyrics another go!

For this week’s prompt: 1. Select two or more songs from the current top 40 listings. 2. Consult the lyrics of each song (most can be found via simple web search). 3. Select words/phrases to create a new poem that:

  1. is distinguishable from your source material, differing in composition, tone, and subject matter,
  2. combines two  or more song texts, and
  3. does not read like song lyrics.

Bonus points if you can manage to use cento form (description here) and still accomplish the above. Have fun…and please share in the comments!


Top image, some rights reserved, by Abulic Monkey on flickr



  • January 24, 2014

    Kenia Cris

    Here is my attempt, I guess I don’t get bonus points!

    :: We can’t go back ::

    Of being young
    and sleepy,
    of writing my word
    on your left arm,
    of the promise
    we made under the
    avocado tree
    in the backyard.

    Of your light,
    smiling face
    when in
    spit shake
    no one let go
    of the other’s
    of spending
    that night awake
    watching the stars.

    The path we drew
    by connecting supergiants
    is now severed
    by a supernova.
    Our bridge is burned.
    We can’t go back.

    —- x

    I picked two song I didn’t know, so I didn’t suddenly start singing and ruined the idea behind the poem:

    Burn – Ellie Goulding (burn, stars, light, hands, promise)
    We were us – Keith Urban (sleepy, young, word, we can’t go back)

    Thanks for the prompt. :)

    • January 24, 2014

      Beth Ayer

      Thank you for your poem Kenia! :)

  • […] Found Poetry Review’s prompt asks for a remix from songs in the Top Forty. I took a small break that turned into a long […]

  • February 2, 2014

    james w. moore

    i know i’m late to this party, but here’s what i remixed from two [largely-]alphabetized songs by Lorde in the Top 40 (“Royals” and “Team”). i call it “How to Run Things.”

    affair ain’t all air and
    baby be beneath between big bigger
    buzz buzz buzz
    cities code comatose craters
    cut dancin’ diamonds different dollars
    dreams dreams dreams dreams. dreams.

    each envy eyes fantasy.
    for friends from getting glows
    graces great grey hands
    he hounds
    how how how
    in islands
    in jewels
    just know life like
    Living lost love
    my never now
    of older planes,
    pretty, pretty, pretty release ruins



    send shards skin
    so song’s stains stay sure

    teeth tell the tigers to
    wait within
    want without

    won’t you?

  • […] created from a prompt (Top 40) at the Found Poetry Review all words from “Royals” and “Team” by Lorde […]

  • […] into the poem “How to Run Things.” Based on the recent Found Poetry Review prompt, Top 40, Moore took the Lorde songs, Royals and Team, alphabetized and mixed their lyrics and created an […]

  • […] you’re stressing about the technical learning curve, don’t underestimate the power of a remixed found poem or a cut-n-paste collage. You don’t need your own installation to create the latter. Just […]