Monday Mayhem Mini: Found Poetry

15 Nov
St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

Image via Wikipedia: Botticelli's St. Augustine writing, revising, rewriting

1:23 pm, Monday, 15 November, 2010 – Atlanta

The mayhem is because it is Monday: laundry and get the house ready for the week day. Therefore the post will be mini, or that’s the plan. I already made the decision to put off talking about my maple until tomorrow, while being aware I have not kept track of it as closely as I had planned. I do look at it every day, but that doesn’t do much for my collecting images of my tree for a future poem, if I am not writing about it. Because I worried I would forget exactly how I am seeing the changes, I started, yesterday, jotting notes on a piece of vermilion cube paper. I’m taking notes for my notes.

If you have been following me, you know you had homework: During the weekend, when you read the newspaper [or computer], or read someoneโ€™s blog, or as you are reading a magazine, keep your eye out for a story that is a little quirky, a little off the wall, a touch bizarre. Should you not read anything odd you can find stories on the net easily enough. Ideally, you want something between 70 and 90 words. Remember to make note of the source.

1. Affix the clipping to a page in your notebook so that you will have a record of your starting point for this exercise. Remember to include bibliographical information [author, title of article, title of article’s source, date].

2. COPY THE PASSAGE WORD FOR WORD FROM THE ARTICLE BY HAND INTO YOUR NOTEBOOK [now you know why the word limit]. This may seem like an odd instruction, but is based on what is known about how the brain works. When you write by hand your brain absorbs what you are writing, with the physical movements of the hand. It doesn’t work in the same way when we word process. Your brain is already making connections as you write.

3. Reread what you copied. The more times we read something, the more we see, the more connections are made.

4. In the belief that any piece of writing is always a step toward a better piece of writing, reread the passage one more time… but… as you do, put a stroke ( / ) wherever you think or hear or feel that, were this passage a poem, a poetic line should end.


A poetic line does NOT equal a sentence. Keep in mind that when a reader sees a full stop, they stop. If you want them to move through without stopping you won’t put a full stop at the end of a line until you want them to stop.

Key positions: Last words in lines …first words in lines.

Trust your eye and ear.

Don’t do anything else to the passage except stroke it–although if you see or hear any words/phrases that jar your eyes or ears, you may lightly cross them out. The reason I say lightly, and this goes for any time you go through and revise, is that you may later decide you want a word or phrase back in. If you have scratched something out so it is unrecognizable, your brain will not hold onto it, and it is gone as a possibility.

Trust your senses–all six–to guide you. They will determine what’s right and wrong.

5. Guided by your strokes and lines, recopy the poem so that it looks, as well as sounds, like a poem. As you move along, feel free to make any other changes. And since you are now the master of this passage, if you care to change the line endings from the way you first stroked them, do so.

This is basic found poetry. Tomorrow we will talk about raising the bar and moving it forward, so it becomes your poem, rather than the original author’s piece. Do not lose the source. We will talk about attribution when we talk about revision.



Posted by on 15/11/2010 in poetry, writing


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8 responses to “Monday Mayhem Mini: Found Poetry

  1. booguloo

    15/11/2010 at 4:07 pm

    Stumbled upon your blog and it was meant to be that I found it. 56 yr old man who just started writing. I will be keeping up and participating in the assignments. Thank you, Michael Yost

    • mroby

      15/11/2010 at 7:32 pm

      Welcome. I didn’t start writing poetry until I was 38. I have only been writing this for a couple of weeks, so wander back through. I have exercises and prompts most days [I don’t write on weekends], and will talk practical stuff occasionally. Glad to have you along.

  2. jessiecarty

    16/11/2010 at 11:38 am

    Can’t believe I hadn’t been to your blog yet! I really like this exercise. Especially using all 6 senses ๐Ÿ™‚

    • mroby

      16/11/2010 at 12:00 pm

      Welcome! Like you have the time, Jessie! But I am glad you have come. I have only been writing since the end of October and your blog structure helped me a lot. I am enjoying the writing and hope to have at least an exercise a week. There is another found poem exercise the previous week you might enjoy as it includes an art piece as part of it. Here’s the link for the first step…when you have time ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Andie

    24/11/2010 at 11:10 pm

    I remember doing this in class. ๐Ÿ™‚ I may try it again over winter break!

    • mroby

      25/11/2010 at 8:08 am

      It’s still fun, but if you look at the week before, the found poetry from a painting exercises are fun too. You need to start with Tuesday November 9 and the next three days have the complete exercise ๐Ÿ™‚


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