Poetry Prompt: The Transcendentalists


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.

This Thursday, Radio Open Source will be revisiting “the birthplace of the American mind,” Concord, Massachusetts, and discussing the transcendentalists: “Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, the Alcotts, and their friends and neighbors.” The transcendentalists’ core belief was “the inherent goodness of both people and nature” (thanks, Wikipedia).

This piqued my interest, so our poetry prompt this week asks you to respond to the following questions (posed by Radio Open Source) by creating found poetry from a transcendental author:

  • “What is the legacy of Emerson’s American renaissance?”
  • “Where is the center of the rebellious mind today and what is it saying?”

Interpret the questions and prompt however they strike you.


  1. Write a brief found poem (erasure, remix, or otherwise) sourced from a text written by a transcendental author.
  2. Head over to the Radio Open Source website and record a voicemail (can be done through the website) before Thursday, March 27th including your name, poem, and source text (we hope you’ll also mention the Found Poetry Review by way of explanation). *It is likely important that you write a brief poem if you plan to record a voicemail.*
  3. And/or: Post your poem here in the comments as usual.

This is the last weekly prompt until May, as we’ll be posting one prompt per day during April for Oulipost.  Stay tuned!

Image: Emerson’s study (Wikimedia Commons)


  • March 25, 2014

    Lewis Oakwood

    The Spirit And Splendour

    it never quite repeats itself,
    not imitation,
    but creation is the aim

    so original and fantastic –
    the connection of things,
    to infinitude in any direction

    that excellence
    of all things is one
    (the ever-changing
    expression of form)


    simplicity of the principles
    out of which spring
    surprising combinations
    of imagination

    NATURE transcends
    all our moods of thought
    is never fixed,
    but always flowing
    it is alive, moving, reproductive;
    and continuations
    of the material creation

    (Source: ‘ESSAY XII – Art’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

  • March 27, 2014


    “Nature [Intro]”

    Our age is the se
    pulchres of fathe
    rs it writes c
    riticism foregoing
    generations behe
    ld god and nature fa
    ce to eye should no
    t we have a poetry emb
    osomed for a season in floods…
    proportioned to nature should we
    grope among the dry bones
    of the masquerade
    ‘s faded wardrobe
    ? the sun shines
    more wool and flax in the new men
    new thoughts let us demand our

    Source: https://archive.org/details/naturemunroe00emerrich

  • March 27, 2014

    Beth Ayer

    The astronomer must have his diameter of the earth’s orbit as a base to find the parallax of any star.

    this surface on which we now stand is sliding
    we unsettle all things,
    break up the whole chain of habits
    every action outdone.

    we are apprentices to the truth,
    not a mass of facts,
    the only sin is limitation
    let us rise into another idea.

    the eternal generation of circles proceeds
    but we believe this does not diminish reality
    we call it by many names
    which are not symbols to us.

    All that they reckoned settled shakes and rattles
    the man and woman of seventy assume to know all
    and talk down to the young
    but we believe this reality does not diminish.

    there is an element of false precision in setting
    hard chronological boundaries
    happen is never once but like ripples
    Permanence is but a word of degrees

    the pebble sinks,
    commerce is of trivial import;
    love, faith, truth of character, aspiration,
    these are sacred.

    the ripples move on,
    change and reform
    spread true in gleams and fragments
    the first of a new series
    and that without end

    Emerson, “Circles”: http://www.bartleby.com/5/109.html
    an article on the millennial generation (Pew Research Center)
    “Absalom, Absalom!” by William Faulkner

  • […] week’s prompt at the Found Poetry Review is their last regular one until May. They ask us to take on the Transcendentalists. Stop by their […]

  • […] Written for the Found Poetry Review “The Transcendentalists” […]

  • March 29, 2014


    Hello. This is my first post here, and although late, I did enjoy writing it.

    Sleep Icy Sky

    The common.
    The deep melting into bloom,
    ride the rising return of the day —
    from trees,
    from hills
    at distance looking.
    There green and dark,
    and higher in rank
    above cloudless sky.
    Tedious time,
    floundering night
    on the lee side of starry sleep.
    Icy sky be brooded breath.

    Source: an essay written by John Muir, published in Harper’s Sept 1877, “Snow Storm on Mr Shasta”, page 524. This essay is digitally stored online at Cornell University Library

  • […] with prompts from a journal I found today, Found Poetry. This was The Transcendentalists prompt, from March. The source words are from an essay by Emerson on […]