Found Poetry

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I’m teaching a found poetry workshop: The Found Poetry Project, at next June’s Squam Art Workshops Retreat, which has got me thinking (ok obsessing) about ‘found’ poetry in all its guises; from the literal finding or overhearing of words to the more slippery forms of ‘found’ poetry: erasure or palimpsest, dialoguing with other works of literature, list poetry, postcard and photo prompt poems and this poem by poet and friend Amy Dryansky on her Pokey Mama blog. Click on the first link: ‘Zoe Deschanel & the Narrative Arc’ and scroll down to just after the dress made of poetry (speaking of ‘found’ poems) to find “Soul Accounting”. When I first read this poem in Dryansky’s amazing collection Grass Whistle, I thought “wow, it sounds so much like Emily Dickinson” so I was either off my game, not recognizing E.D’s lines, or operating at the subconscious, intuitive level, because, Yes! they are E.D’s lines, first lines to be exact. Dryansky compiled the entire poem of first lines from Dickinson poems. It’s a stunner. Read it. Now, back to that poetry dress; I’m intrigued by the idea of incorporating poetry into traditional forms of women’s handwork and craft. I’ve been working on a quilt kind of like this but bigger, incorporating diary entries from Esther Small’s diary, as well as photos of rural decay, transferred onto fabric. I’m trying to use vintage fabric in the piecing, or otherwise distressed fabrics, with bits of lace or florals in the mix to show the feminine hand, but the overall feel of the piece is dark, the stitching is a kind of suturing (actually a blanket stitch) as of wounds. There are also transferred images of Civil War soldiers from Esther’s husband’s regiment. I’ll let you know if I ever finish it. I’m also trying to figure out how to weave lines of poetry, also printed on fabric, in narrow strips into a lap loom weaving, so that the words peek out strategically. I’d like to accompany some of the poems from my upcoming collection with these pieces of traditional handwork for the launch and readings. We’ll see…. So, somewhere between jotting notes for my found poetry workshop, feeling envious of Dryansky’s writing abilities and trying to figure out how to sew poetry, I created these little mini magnetic poetry kits for my Etsy shop. They’re made in an Altoids-sized box, either painted or decoupaged. The first one above was decoupaged with a vintage map of Paris. The ‘found’ poetry on the top of the box is from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” and the inside contains magnetic letters. Voi la, portable poetry! I’m working on one right now with images and text from a vintage copy of Beauty and the Beast. And yes, there will be an Emily Dickinson inspired one sooner or later. I just need to find an old copy of her collected-original- punctuation-messed-with poems to deface. If anyone out there has cool found poetry ideas or prompts, or something along the lines of the poetry dress- traditional handwork melded with poetry-  I’d love to hear it.

5 thoughts on “Found Poetry

  1. Dear Sarah, My name is Nance. My husband and I live in Downeast Maine, Pembroke, (near Eastport). My husband who is a retired scientist and currently tutors math at Washington County Community College is an amazing man who does many things and has many hobbies, has recently started writing some beautiful poems, mostly about nature in this gorgeous area here. I have been trying to think of unique Christmas presents for him and since I love your poetry and the fact that you reach out so much to others I was wondering if you would ever consider tutoring him for one hour and I would pay whatever you’d charge? Would it be possible for him to sit down somewhere with him sometime? He is not a Skype person so I don’t think he’d like to do that. Maybe sometime this year we could drive down and meet you somewhere wherever you live ? Anyway, just a thought . Thanks so much . Nance

    • Nance,
      I’d consider tutorial via email. I think getting together might prove difficult. Also, he could take a look at the Squam workshop when that gets posted on their site, should be any time now. I’ll be teaching a found poetry workshop which will be very non-academic, friendly for all kinds of crafters and dabblers. I think we’ll probably make the little magnetic poetry kits as well. It’s held at Squam Lake in New Hampshire, and isn’t only women:)
      Also, take a look at the editing and manuscript review page on my blog. I have an option for a single poem edit. I could tutor your husband in that way, through a single poem. After Squam (next June) I’ll probably lead the ‘Found’ Poetry workshop online. There are some simple internet classroom platforms that make it easy to post prompts, assignments, discussion. Also, I’ll be listing any upcoming events on my events page. I could, should, give a reading in Maine and will likely do some in the eastern part of Mass. when my next collection is released. Thanks for the kind words Nance.

  2. I think I love you. The way you find and sew poetry into every day life is magical. Wondrous. You paint a beauty on the day. A delicate gift to contemplate on slow urban trains.

    Thank you.


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