Saturday, April 11, 2009

NaPoWriMo #11: A Found Poem

Today's prompt at readwritepoem was to write (or at least gather?) a "found poem". In the poetry circles I move in, this term is sometimes used rather loosely to refer to a poem that is collaged from fragments of various other texts. As I understand it, however, the strictly correct use of the term refers to a single piece of text, unarranged except for line breaks, culled from a piece of text that would not be normally considered poetry. The latter point is critical, of course, because otherwise it is simply plagiarism.

There have been a few highly successful pieces of found poetry taken from newspaper articles. On the whole, though, I believe it is the most difficult form of poetry. Easy on the surface, because all you have to do is arrange a piece of text. Difficult, because you can only use texts that aren't intended to be poetry, and it takes a very experienced eye to spot something that can be made into poetry just by arranging the line breaks.

To me, it has a lot in common with the type of art that says a urinal on display in an art gallery becomes art. The more loose sort, of course, has a lot in common with collage - making something new from a collection of different texts - and on the whole, I find it a lot more compelling and fun.

My effort for today is closer to the pure form in that I took only one text, and didn't rearrange the order of the words. I did, however, leave some out. It comes from an article on manta rays from The Press, Friday July 13, 2007, which was in turn reprinted from the Washington Post.

Manta Ray

So you’re a pregnant manta ray,
about to give birth to a baby with
a two-metre wingspan. How on earth
will you manage that?
You gently flap your glorious wings
to swim to the bottom. You rub
your swollen belly on the ground
for a while. Then you gain a little
altitude and, with a forceful push,
eject your precious bundle
as a rolled-up burrito, which unfurls
to begin its new life.


Kay Cooke said...


Crafty Green Poet said...

excellent poem, proving how well found poetry can work!

Interesting to read your thoughts too