Recently, The New York Times has been publishing the results of its Found Poetry contest for students. This is a grand opportunity to introduce students to the poetic form of found poetry and to share exceptional examples of work done by high school students.
Found poetry takes words and phrases from existing texts, rearranges them and creates something new—as an artist might do in a collage or a musician through “sampling” tracks from other works. In this example, 18-year-old Raena took text from the review of a kabuki performance and transformed it into poetry:
Cho No Michiyuki
Vain and foolish,
Run along Yoshino Mountain
Like ropes of mist
Here, dry wit is used
In a muted battle
Warrior against warrior
A knife opens flesh
A lifeline lost
The story ends with him alone
The solo butterfly
End its last journey
Other examples were printed daily May 14-24 and can be found in The Times Learning Network blog. Information on the blog can be found at any of the links above.
The contest, not surprisingly, focused on poems “found” in The New York Times, but poetry can be found in all kinds of text. Think about the following options.
- Follow The Times’ example and use text found in the newspaper. You can either use the entire newspaper for maximum flexibility, or be selective. Think about the insights that might be gained by transforming the report of a local news event into poetry.
- Create poetry from text found in advertisements. This could lead to interesting discussions of both poetry and advertising messages.
- Create poems from historical documents or accounts of historical events. Consider what students might learn by creating found poems about the Selma March, World War II, or life in early Plymouth. It could be particularly interesting to find poems in primary source documents.
- Talk about sampling in music, but for this exercise, sample only the lyrics to create a found poem. Perhaps some of your students will want to go the next step and add the music as well.
- What about found poetry in science? Think about whether students might gain insight by finding poems within either their regular science texts (OK, that might be a stretch), or science writing as found in Scientific American or similar sources. I wonder if finding poetry in science might help some students see the beauty in the principles they are studying.
Where else could you (and your students) find poems?