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Group Projects

Penn & Pencil members recently embarked on a writing project recommended by Pat Green, one of our poets. The project, called "'found' poetry," is an exercise in creativity and discipline. Pat's description of "found" poetry follows, as do several of her "found" poems.

"Found" poetry refers to the discovery of an original poem within an already existing written work. The poet "finds" selected words within a document, takes them out of their original context, and rearranges them according to some method, thus creating a poem with a unique meaning of its own. Found poetry has been known to arise from literature, but also from newspapers, advertisements, slogans, court documents, and virtually anywhere words appear.

In "finding" poetry within a written work, some poets choose words in a particular pattern, for example, every twentieth word on a page. Other writers of found poetry combine the beginning of one sentence with the end of another. Words can even be selected randomly, by pointing to a word on a page with eyes closed, or the poet may choose whatever words have particular appeal. Some have been known to use elaborate algorithms for determining what words they will use.

One main characteristic of this form of poetry is that there is some constraint on the writing process. The poet is not entirely free to select his/her words, but has a limited universe of words from which to choose. The language may involve a vocabulary that the poet would not normally use, forcing the writer into a new realm of words and ideas. This experimentation with language can produce unexpected and startling results. Found poetry can be a group collaboration, with each person contributing a single word or single line to a poem (with or without knowing what their fellow collaborators have written) and the lines arranged in a specified order. The writers may or may not know the subject of their poem. A subject may be assigned beforehand, or it may be discovered once the poem is assembled.

Archetypal Memories, Careworn Caregiver, and One Night Stand, by Pat Green


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