Monday, May 19, 2014

Writer’s Workshops 8: Found Poems

Is it plagiarism when you do a found poem?

I’ve always wondered if I was breaking some copyright law, but I’ve learned a couple of things from taking poetry workshops and I share them here with you.

A found poem is one where you find words to use to build your poem or specifically use words for your poem, but re-arrange them. In other words, a found poem is something found not intended to be a poem and made into one. You’re either faithful to the words/phrases and use them as they are, or you’re unfaithful and change the order to get to a new meaning. Think of it as a collage of words.

One way to write a found poem is to randomly choose words in a dictionary.

Another way is to use street signs or titles of books or songs to make your poem.

You can also choose phrases to make your poem.

You don’t have to use the words exactly as you find them, but can switch them around. If you do use them in order, it is important to cite the source of where you found them. That way, you are not plagiarizing. For example, let’s say I wanted to use song lyrics as part of my poem, then, I would need to say who sang them. “Live and Let Die” should be cited at the end of my poem as coming from Paul McCartney and so on.


As an exercise, make an attempt at a found poem using random words from a book you’re reading. Just go through a chapter or two and pick out ten words. Then, you can decide if you want to add more words or use what you found.

Here’s my attempt from a teacher book on reading:

step      table    fan       graphics           words  produce           fluently            cross    point    chips


fanning words
fluent graphics
crossing steps
on pointed chips
left on table

After deciding where I want my words to fit, I added extra “filler” words to complete the found poem. I also changed the structure of some words to fit the meaning I wanted to convey about reading. Since I didn’t use the words in a set order from the book, I don’t have to cite it, but if I used any of them as phrases taken directly from the book, I would have had to cite it.

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