Found Poetry: Converting or Stealing the Words of Others

Publish date:

Here's one of my earliest published poems from a 2006 issue of Children, Churches & Daddies.

"RE: your hips"

time to get serious...

Don't you think it's about time you dropped a few pounds?

No diet, No exercise...
No BS,
Only safe, substantial results in a few weeks,

It only takes 24 bucks
to see if this is what you've been searching for
the last few years...
we bet it is.

This poem is not my typical style. In fact, I had very little involvement in composing this poem outside of how the line breaks were structured. This is a "found" poem that was originally a spam message found in my e-mail inbox.

Found poetry is all about taking words not originally meant to be a poem (as they originally appeared) and turning those words into a poem anyway. You can use newspaper articles, bits of conversation (something I've done more than a few times with my 4 and 6 year olds), instructions, recipes, letters, e-mails, direct mail and even spam e-mail (they had to have some value, eh).

With found poetry, you do not alter the original words, but you can make line breaks and cut out excess before and/or after the poem you've "found." The power of found poetry is how words not intended as poetry can take on new and profound meanings as found poems.

For instance, the spam e-mail I received above gave me a little chuckle at first. But then, the content stuck with me, and I began thinking about two different sides of this message. First, obesity is more of a widespread problem now than at any other time in human history. Second, more people have eating disorders (whether eating too much or too little) and body image issues now than, perhaps, at any other time in human history, too.

As a result, this poorly crafted spam message that was intended to try and get people to check out some dietary product takes on a much more powerful commentary as a found poem. For some, it will draw a smile. For others, it will speak to the problems of overeating and lack of exercise. For still others, it will symbolize how people are harming themselves physically and mentally by placing too much emphasis on their body image.

Not every found poem has to make a commentary, but this is one example. For "writing" your own found poems, you just need to continue doing what all writers do: Pay attention to your surroundings. If you find something interesting, see if it'll work as a poem.


Also, if you're reading this blog in the United States, have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend!


Check out more Poetic Forms.


Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.


Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!


20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.


Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.


Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.