Tag Archives: found poetry

Found Poetry: Alphabet Soup


I found a great article on found poetry at Creative Writing Now, which I used as the basis for this post.

(Photos by Strawberryblue)

For the variety of found poetry composed of random words and phrases mixed up and pulled out of a container, which I call “Alphabet Soup”, start collecting and cutting out words and phrases that appeal to you. Aim for a wide variety and a good-sized quantity.

Sources can be newspapers, magazines, instruction manuals, recipes, any kind of list, fortune cookies or horoscopes, textbooks, grafitti, personal memorabilia like letters, emails, even spam.

Put them in a container and pull out 10 to 15 selections (or whatever number you choose) at random and lay them face up on your work surface, in the order in which you drew them.

Write down these lines and see if there is any way you can connect them to make some sense of them by adding punctuation, line spacing, altering the tense, making words plural or singular, and so forth while striving to keep to the natural order as much as possible. If lines don’t work in the position they were in, feel free to move them.

Last, give the poem a title. This step may be the key to making the poem a cohesive whole, so take some time with it.

There is something so magical and intriguing about this process, evoking the gods of synchronicity and the harmony of the universe in this act of creation.

Here is one of my found poems written with this technique, in which I strictly retained the word’s natural order.

Burning Heart

Travel darkening wind,
Natural angel.
Rambling conversation
Asian kill complete.

What you don’t know CAN hurt you
FLASH! A distant sun.

Secrets of the charming opium
Remember romance.

©2011 Lin Neiswender


Found Poetry: Blackout


I’m going to do a small series on the varieties of found poetry, which Wiki defines as:

“a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry by making changes in spacing and/or lines (and consequently meaning), or by altering the text by additions and/or deletions. The resulting poem can be defined as either treated: changed in a profound and systematic manner; or untreated: virtually unchanged from the order, syntax and meaning of the original.”

The first one I’d like us to examine is the blackout poem. It gets its name from unwanted words being blacked out using a black marker, paint, or some other method to cover the text.

I wrote a blackout poem from a newspaper article about the 2008 elections in the United States. A broad-tip black marker -unfortunately running dry- let me carve out the words that spoke to me from the page. The final text was pretty much unchanged from the natural order of the words. Here’s a picture of my first blackout poem.

Text of poem fromm newspaper article

Blackout Poem "A Painful Wait"

The final text of the poem is:

A Painful Wait


Lin Neiswender

Tough times,
Middle Class losing its grip
Imperil the American Dream.

It’s likely to get worse,
Falling between the cracks,
Bled to the brink of homelessness.

It’s no holiday.

Will you vote?

©2008 Lin Neiswender

Everyone has a newspaper or two around. Why not take a page with a long story, pick up your marker or black crayon or paintbrush, and try your hand at this?  I promise that you will be impressed with what you come up with.