Introduction to Found Poetry


Found poetry is making a new poem out of an existing source. I enjoy found poetry because you can keep the flavor of the original text, or change it completely. Also, one can create many found poems from just one source text. Last, it is lazy (i.e. smart) poetry: one doesn't need to create everything 100%. I enjoy found poetry so much, that of the poems I have written (which can be found here), of them are found poems. In this article, I describe how I make found poems.

First, I find an existing source of text. The source could be a poem, headlines of the day, a recipe, just about any text really!

Second, I paste this text into a column in an Excel spreadsheet.

Third, I use the Text to Columns feature in Excel to move each word into a new column.

Fourth, I paste all of these columns into a single column, say column A.

Fifth, I use the following command to randomly sample text from column A:


I copy this formula down say R rows and over C columns to create a RxC sized found poem. Sampling randomly is just one way to create a found poem. One could also go through the source text using many other methods.

Sixth, I concatenate the randomly selected words together to form "sentences" again.

Seventh, I edit the found poem accordingly. I do try to keep the edits as few and as minor as possible so as to not alter the "found" aspect of the poem. I may edit to alter the meaning of the source poem, or edit so as to not alter the meaning of the source poem. I could also edit length, word choices, punctuation, etc., as desired. As noted, this process can create many found poems from a single source text.

To see some examples of found poetry created in this manner, see my Found Poetry.

Thanks for reading!

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