The Creative Practice of Found Poetry

Words matter. They are precious commodity and often spent frivolously. Over the years I’ve come to love words. They hold such power – to build up or tear down. I am a word person, and so I take language seriously. Because of this, I’ve decided to focus my life and speaking, saying, and sharing words the edify, encourage, and equip. I do this for myself and for others, and it all began in the classroom one year when I was teaching theme. I wanted to find and use an easy way to help my students better connect to challenging texts. Enter found poetry. It was a safe and lower risk way for me to guide students in the process of understanding how writers create a central message using that author’s words. Here’s my quick how to on creating found poetry for personal practice, but of course you can also tweak it for the classroom.

What you’ll need to begin:

Before we begin you’ll need some tools: a favorite book, magazine, article, or other text (make sure it’s one you don’t mind marking on), pencil, black/blue pen, or any other of your favorite writing instruments, and time (15-20 minutes).

How I do found poetry:

  1. Find a text you enjoy reading or that has deep meaning for you. This will inspire you as you go hunting for words.
  2. Carve out time in your day to spend with your words – the text you chose. I’m sharing images from a book I’m reading all year long – A Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes
  3. Choose a page or section that’s your favorite, or it could be random too.
  4. Scan the page top to bottom or bottom to top at least once before you make any marks.
  5. Now using your writing tool, circle, underline, or box words/phrases that catch your eye.
  6. Scan the page again for where you made your marks, this is the beginning of your found poem.
  7. Read it again aloud. Do you like what you hear? Does it resonate? Is it missing something? Now you can scan again and add or erase. It’s up to you. I think your heart will know when it’s just right.
  8. Do another scan or two. If you like what you’ve got, then it’s time to get creative. You can color, paint, draw on the page or all around your words. Do what feels right for you.
  9. I sometimes outline my words with some marker or pen and then doodle. Other times I may draw lines through the surround words so only the boxes remain, or I blackout the surrounding words.
  10. Play around with your found poetry. You can’t really do it wrong.

One thing I’ll share with you is something I’ve said before about how much of art is imitating life or what is already happening inside of us. I’ve heard it called secret messages, and it rings true for me. More often than not, the words I find come to be the words I need at a later time. Maybe I’m preaching to myself without even knowing it, and that is the beauty of making poetry from found words. The soul speaks. The heart hears.

We found poetry, but really the poetry found us. Keep on practicing your creativity friends. Share your poetry stories, I’d love to hear them.

In the month of October, I’m participating in the #Write31Days challenge. I’m focusing creative practice in the ordinary, everyday mundane. Each day (or whenever I write) for the series I will post the link on my page for my #31DaysOfCreativePractice. Come along and read.

Share your thoughts.