So I do this thing that I first discovered with Austin Kleon and his newspaper blackout poetry. It’s really fun and is called ‘found poetry’. I’m just finding the poetry because I use articles with words that are already there. I search and ‘find’ the poems within them. I don’t overthink it and it is used more as a creative exercise to find new ideas than a way to write quality poetry. But some of the phrases and rhythm that come out of the exercise are pretty interesting. A good definition I found for found poetry is the following:
Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems. (From poets.org)
To read more about the literary greats that did awesome things with this medium visit poets.org.
The picture above is some hand lettering practice I did with a couple found poems I made in a Vogue magazine.
When approaching an exercise like this you have to understand that the worth of it is not in the end result but in the process of doing it. You end up in a box that is filled with only the words available to you on the page and are forced to create something different using only those. That’s the beauty of it. Sometimes creativity is energized, not by ‘thinking outside the box’ but by putting yourself in a box and making do with what you’re given. Again, most likely, the poems themselves are going to be, at best confusing and at worst, just suck really bad. But that’s the fun of it. Embrace the suck for the sake of the possibility of new ideas and a new way of thinking about problems. Isn’t that what creativity is? Just a fancy term for problem solving?
Anyways, to try this out for yourself, there’s not much to it. Pick an old book, a magazine, a newspaper, whatever. At first don’t give yourself too much room on a page. You’ll get overwhelmed by more words if you start with too large of an area. Usually in a magazine, I choose about a quarter of the page, cut off somewhere by an image or a column break. Then I start skimming through, searching for words that stand out to be. I love language, so descriptive words are usually the most fun for me to play with. You’ll see in the image to the left, that I used a very small portion of a Vogue magazine page. I just started outlining words I wanted and then filled in the blanks with fillers like ‘and’, ‘the’, and ‘by’ where I wanted them. Sometimes you can’t find a word that would make sense of a sentence you create. That’s okay! If you read any classic poetry at all, you know that not a lot of it reads like prose. This isn’t about creating sentences that follow the standard rules of grammar and good writing. This is a creative exercise. Lots of rules end up broken. If it is meaningful to you, even just a phrase here or there, then it was a success. Even if it just ends up as gibberish, again thinking about the importance of the process, just do it again. Flip the page and start over.
One way to make this even more fun or challenging is to set a timer. My sister and I like to play this game together where we set the timer for a minute at a time and then make poems on opposite pages of the same magazine. The time restriction, doing it alongside someone else and reading it aloud to each other after we’re done is very stimulating. And usually pretty funny depending on what we put together.
I usually then take the poems and use them for hand lettering practice. I also like to pull out phrasing and save them for zine titles or artwork titles. They’re also really fun to go back later and look through. Sometimes something will hit you later that didn’t hit you in the moment of finding the poem. That’s how art works.
Side note: look how pretty watercolor lettering is on mixed media paper. I love all the tones and textures that come out of the messy writing.
I hope you found this interesting and something you could try for yourself! I like to do this sometimes in the morning as part of my miracle morning routine to loosen up my sometimes sleepy mind.
If you do try this out, let me know how it goes! Feel free to ask me questions if something doesn’t make sense. You can communicate with me here or on Instagram @rachelloftis.
Thanks for reading! Go make something today!