Found Poetry

May 17, 2012 by

I had never heard of “found poetry” until I read about it a few years ago in Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature K-6 (Dorfman and Cappelli, 2007).  Poets.org explains that “found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems,”

I haven’t actually used this technique with students yet, but it looks really fun and I want to!  I decided to try it myself today and create my own mentor text to have ready when the opportunity to use it with students arises.

I selected an expository picture book called The Penguin.  Here is the text I used to “find my poem”:

Fishing Champions
On the Antarctic islands, there is almost nothing except pebbles and some plants.  Luckily the Antarctic Ocean is full of fish for penguins to eat.  With their streamlined bodies, short necks, and waterproof feathers, penguins are champion swimmers and divers.  Penguins use their flippers to propel themselves forward and press their feet close to their tail to act as a rudder.  They move fast in the water, especially when hunting for food.

And here is the poem I “found”:

Fishing Champions

Antarctic islands:

nothing

except pebbles and some plants.

Antarctic Ocean:

full of fish.

Streamlined bodies,

short necks,

waterproof feathers.

Penguins propel

themselves forward.

They move fast,

hunting

for

food.

I must say that this was a satisfying exercise.  It was very easy to find a text to use—really, anything will do.  I had to read it several times—once for understanding and then a couple more times to pull out words and phrases.  It felt non-threatening, and even though the original words weren’t mine, the poem felt like mine.

Try it and see if your experience is similar.  I would love to see what kinds of poems you and your students “find”.

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