October 5, 2017

Prompt: Finders, Keepers

WordPress offers an Intro to Poetry 101 freebie online “course” to inspire you to write 10 poems in 10 days. Really, it is just a very brief one-word prompt and some poetry form and language suggestions. I don’t normally need much prompting to write, but it is good to get poked into writing once and awhile.  
On my Writing the Day website, I devote myself to the ronka form, but I took up this October challenge and let some other forms slip onto the site. Poems for this little side project are tagged #poetry101 there, and you can see poems by others as part of this project at wordpress.com/tag/poetry101.
One of their prompts was the "found poem" which is a form we used on Poets Online back in 2010. I decided to use it again because it is such a deceptively easy form. Easy in that someone else has done the writing for you, but a good and more difficult exercise in what makes a poem a poem. And what better prompt could I use for a found poem than a prompt that I found.
Here is what Wordpress gave us to use:
found poem is composed of words and letters you’ve collected — randomly or not — from other sources, whether printed, handwritten, or digital, and then (re)arranged into something meaningful. Since a found poem is made up of words and letters others have created, it’s up to you, the poet, to find them (hence the name), extract them, and rejig them into something else: your poem.

The classic way of going about the creation of a found poem is scissors and newspaper in hand: you cut out words and phrases and arrange them into your poem. You can then either snap a photo and upload it to your blog, or simply transcribe the resulting text into a new post.
That said, you can control the degree of randomness you impose on your available stock of words, as well as on the procedure you follow to create the poem. You can photocopy a page from a book (even a book of poetry!) and select every fifth word on the first ten pages. Repurpose one of your unpublished drafts into something new. You can even use your books to create some book spine poetry, or recycle your tweets (one online tool will actually do it for you) and other social media messages and turn them into a poetic meditation on… anything, really. Another popular option is erasure or blackout poetry, where you cross out words from an existing printed page until the remaining ones produce a new meaning.

As with our earlier attempts at found poetry, there are some rules for submissions:

  1. Use only the words found in the source - no changing verb forms, making plurals etc. 
  2. but the title can be original (and often makes a difference in the way the poem will be read.
  3. You can add or subtract capitalization and punctuation. 
  4. Your tools are careful selection, ordering, line breaks and stanzas. 
  5. You must identify the original source either in the title or a note at the beginning or end of the poem. (If the source is online, you could give a link for the reader to follow.)
Deadline for submissions is November 5, 2017


  1. In the news...

    The Trump-Era Boom in Erasure Poetry
    How a poetic form gained new political purpose online in 2017.


  2. "Declaration" by Tracy K.Smith is a great example of an erasure poem using the Declaration of Independence to find a new message https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/06/declaration


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