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Found Poems

October 2017

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, but it motivated me to take on the challenge and I did the ten poems.  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

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. Re-purpose one of your unpublished drafts into something new.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.)

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


There were hardly any lights except
the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat.
As the moon rose higher
houses began to melt away.
Here, a fresh, green breast of the new world,
a dream so close that it was already behind him.
The orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.
It eluded us then, but that's no matter -
tomorrow we will run faster,
stretch out our arms farther.

So we beat on,
boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly into the past.

From the final paragraphs of The Great Gatsby
Lianna Wright


15 minutes
Life in a bowl, owned
Wire cool, small rack, small can
Size 6? 2 Fat
Do not insert food
Reduce calories, reduce fat, reduce, reduce
Size 2, size 1, size 0
Calories in; calories out
Size 4? 2 fat
Immediately substituted
No compass, no ground
A used, beat, shell
Time out
Insert food
Gradually, daily
Good nutrition
Facts not permission
See inside for values
Do not separate from; connect with
Label not: good or not good
Size 2, or 12 or ...
A or C or ... cup
Naturally small, naturally large
All for one; no division
Serve one; please one
Taste life
Be different, be free

Found poem with words taken from a Libby’s canned pumpkin label
Terri J. Guttilla


Do you remember a fragrance girls acquire in autumn?
As you walk beside them after school,
they tighten their arms about their books
bend their heads forward
give a more flattering attention to you words

in the little intimate area thus formed,
carved into the clear crescent,
a complex fragrance woven of powder, lipstick, rinsed hair,
and elusive scent of wool in the nap of a sweater.

The cloudless fall sky.
The glad exhalations of all things.
This fragrance, so faint and flirtatious
on those afternoon walks through the dry leaves.

Now it has fled the world.
Girls walk by me carrying their invisible bouquets
and I look up in the manner of one
who follows with his eyes the passage of a hearse,
and remembers what pierces him.

Erasure poem taken from the short story "In Football Season" by John Updike
Charles Michaels


A vile wind blown
through prison cells
and wards of hospitals
now comes blowing
innocent as fleeces—tainted.

Were I the wind,
I’d blow no more
on such a wicked world.
I’d crawl to a cave
and slink there.

The wind!
who ever conquered it?
Run tilting at it
and you but run through it—
a coward wind
will not stand
to receive a single blow.


And yet
there’s something
glorious and gracious
in the wind.

Blow my keeled soul along!

Found poem from paragraph 3, Ch. 135 of Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Wilda Morris


The land remembers
winged obsidian
mournful names off canyon walls,
hunters into the valley,
ephemeral heartbeat –
drums speak the wiles,
the cobbles. The places stay.
Lower his wings
to the overlook.
Echo tastes winter snow.

from three poems by Nancy Haskett
Taylor Graham


People dissolve bands, which have connected them,
Declare to be empowered,
Abolish principles,
Dictate mankind suffer

Despotism -- their right
To alter former systems of government,
An absolute tyranny
Over facts, laws, the public good

People utterly neglected,
For the sole purpose
Of fatiguing them into compliance;
The State, mean time, exposed
To invasion from without - convulsions within

Obstructing laws for naturalization of foreigners
Refusing to pass others to encourage their migration
Obstructed justice
Cutting off trade with the world

Abolishing our most valuable laws
Excited domestic insurrections
Petitions answered by repeated injury

A Prince, whose character is marked
By every act, which may define a Tyrant,
Is unfit to be the ruler of a free people

A found erasure poem via the Declaration of Independence
Frank Kelly


Years go by.
You notice a few changes in appearance -
skin feels drier and looks duller.
What worked in your 20s or 30s - not now.
Sagging skin, wrinkles,
creams to boost elasticity, restore radiance
treatments, moisturizers, pads and serums
repair and replenish, exfoliate, add volume.
Your new routines:
limit your amount of time in the sun
(especially between 10 and 2),
seek shade and wear sunglasses
and long-sleeved shirts, pants and hats.
Blur the edges of your makeup for a filteresque look.
Dust your cheeks and décolletage to give skin
a warm glow that looks fresh and natural.
Boost your lashes - long and flirty lashes
will enliven your eyes instantly.
Fight aging.
Youth is a thing of the past.
Embrace the now.

Found poem from text on
Pamela Milne


Here’s to a fine bonnie lass from our senior class
With those eyes and hair,
Beauty personified.
A lovely figure;
The kind of girl fellas would walk a mile for.

The most popular girl in the library,
Who knows shorthand frontwards and backwards,
Beautiful eyes and a lovely figure--
Qualities that make success:

A good secretary.
My, won’t you look nice
Behind a desk,
On some boss’s knee.

You never fall in love,
Heaven won’t seem very far.

Upon my mother’s passing at the age of 96, I found name cards from her 1939 high school graduating classmates. These comments were written on the reverse sides.
Ron Yazinski


Fake News!
Just made up
Let's be clear
Trump is suggesting
news is "just made up."
He offers no evidence.
Trump doesn't like what the media writes about him.
Fact checks have shown
the biggest purveyor of fake news
is Trump.
1,145 false or misleading claims in his first 232 days in office.
4.9 per day.
We 'should have seen this coming'
And it works
at least, it works to motivate his political base
(facts be damned!)
"You're not supposed to be sycophants,
you're supposed to be skeptics,
you're supposed to ask me tough questions.
You're not supposed to be complimentary,
but you're supposed to cast a critical eye
on folks who hold enormous power
and make sure that we are accountable
to the people who sent us here,
and you have done that,"
said President Barack Obama
Can Trump say the same?
An avid consumer of cable TV and major national newspapers,
Trump knows the media isn't fake.

Erasure poem via
Kenneth Ronkowitz