A Found poem uses words and phrases from another source, generally some kind of everyday written material (e.g. letters, newspapers, headlines, lines from a television program, advertisements) but combines them in new ways.
A pure Found poem consists entirely of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.
Many poets have also chosen to incorporate snippets of found texts into larger poems, most significantly Ezra Pound. His Cantos includes letters written by presidents and popes, as well as an array of official documents from governments and banks. The Waste Land, by T. S. Eliot, uses many different texts, including Wagnerian opera, Shakespearian theatre, and Greek mythology.
Writing this type of poetry is like making a collage. You search for interesting scraps of language, then put them together in different ways to see what comes out. In the end you may decide to rewrite the poem and take out all the found language, or to keep the found scraps entirely in their original form. Either way, a Found poem is a great way to jolt your creativity.
Sources for Found poems can include:
•instruction books, recipes
•horoscopes, fortune cookies
•science, math, or social science textbooks
•pieces of letters, post cards, phone messages, notes you've written for yourself
•grocery lists, lists of all kinds
•spam e-mails (just watch out for suspicious links!)
I have not been able to discover what the etiquette is regarding citing the source for a Found poem, however I “found” my poem in the introduction of the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
The Wild Woman
We may have forgotten her names,
we may not answer when she calls ours,
but in our bones we know her,
we yearn toward her;
we know she belongs to us and we to her.
A sense of her comes through vision;
through sights of great beauty.
I have felt her when I see
what we call in the woodlands
a Jesus-God sunset.
I have felt her move in me
from seeing the fishermen
come up from the lake at dusk
with lanterns lit,
and also from seeing my newborn baby’s toes
all lined up like a row of sweet corn.
We see her where we see her,
which is everywhere.
She comes to us through sound as well;
through music which vibrates the sternum,
excites the heart;
it comes through the drum,
the whistle, the call, and the cry.
It comes through the written and the spoken word;
sometimes a word, a sentence or a poem or a story,
is so resonant, so right,
it causes us to remember,
at least for an instant,
what substance we are really made from,
and where is our true home.
The longing for her comes
when one happens across someone
who has secured this wildish relationship.
The longing comes
when one realizes one has given scant time
to the mystic cookfire
or to the dreamtime,
too little time to one’s own creative life,
one’s life work or one’s true loves.
We eventually must pursue the wildish nature.
Then we leap into that forest
or into the desert
or into the snow
and run hard,
our eyes scanning the ground,
our hearing sharply tuned,
searching for a clue,
a sign that she still lives,
that we have not lost our chance.
The Wild Woman has no name,
for she is so vast.