#ThePoeming… So It Begins

This October, I’m joining with 50+ poets across the country for THE POEMING–a found poetry event featuring new poems posted each day, based on the novels of Stephen King.


So, what is found poetry, anyway?

In the most basic sense of the words, a found poem involves taking something found in a text that exists in the world and using it for a poem. Obviously, such an endeavor can come about in many different forms. Here are some of the ways a writer might “find” a poem in a text (some of which I’ll be using for #ThePoeming over the next 30 days):

  1. The Frame – Take a bit of text exactly as it appears in a text and break it into lines.This is often a technique I use to create found poems out of text that has no literary intentions to begin with. I might take, for example, a few sentences from the instruction manual for a power drill and break them into lines. By doing this, I am essentially putting a bit of everyday text and putting it in the “frame” of a poem. Sometimes for me, this form is really about heightening different meanings hidden in the text through the use of line breaks. At other times, it’s about creating a new way of hearing our everyday language by framing it as poetry.
  2. Remix – Select words, phrases, or sentences from a text and use them in any order to create a poem. You can physically cut up the page to do a remix (though some people call that sort a “cut up”) or excerpt bits without cutting.By having defined and finite source material (a tiny word bank), I often find myself stretching meaning in ways I find pleasurable and surprising. I enjoy seeing what colors I can come up with when I’m given a limited palette. Also, I can’t just fall back on my old tricks as a writer when I write a remix. I often have to find new structures to incorporate the words I’m given.

    Some poets are very strict in the way they remix poems, using only the exact words found (as would be required in a cut-up poem). Others allow for alterations (shifts in verb tense, making a plural word singular or vice versa, repetitions or words beyond what is found in the original text).

  3. Mash-up – Select words, phrases, or sentences from two or more texts and use them in any order to create a poem. Often this works best if at least one of those texts is presented in something close to its original order.The poem above is a mash-up of Williams’ famous poem and a random line from King’s The Regulators. The humor here is most obvious when you know “This Is Just To Say” is about eating plums. By sneaking in the line from King, I’ve made the poem (at least in my mind) about eating people. The mash-up here functions as something close to parody, but a mash-up can be used to create different effects, depending on the source materials. For example, I could take the statement of the rape victim in the Brock Turner case and mash it with lines from the court proceedings or the judge’s decision to create a political poem.
  4. Erasure – Erase parts of a text to reveal a poem that can generally be read in the same order as it appeared in the original. Erasure can be presented as a black-out poem or re-typed (or both). Sometimes in blackouts, poets will create visual cues (almost like a flowchart) to suggest the flow of the poem, allowing the poet to present the poem in a somewhat different order than the original.You can find some gorgeously presented blackouts on Pinterest. Here are some pretty sloppy blackouts I wrote a while back:

    I could also retype them and present them as an erasure poem. Here’s a sample of what the one on the left might look like retyped:

    Before I Went Away

    She had never known the true name.
    There is no need for thinking, my sister.

    When it was necessary to utter lies,
    the truth allowed her to call herself

    anyone: your sister,
    his voice, his ancestry, eyes,

    a compliment, her teachers,
    their pupils, her friends,

    such words.

  5. CentoFound Poetry Review describes cento as poetry which “unite lines from other authors’ writings into a new poem. The original lines remain intact; the main intervention comes in arrangement and form.”To be honest, I’ve never felt compelled to take lines from a poem or lyric bit of prose and rework them. To me, found poetry is about finding poems in text that’s not already poetic. I enjoy blackout that uses literary texts as source material, and I enjoy poems that quote a line or two of a source poem as either a launching pad or ending point for a poem that is mostly original (see conversation poems, below).

    The idea, though, of reordering a poem to make another poem doesn’t really interest me.

  6. Conversation poems – Mix bits of found text (literary or not) with your own original lines to create a poem that moves between the two. Often poets distinguish found bits from original but putting one or the other in a different font or in italics.Mary Szybist’s “Annunciation in Nabokov and Starr,” for example, mixes lines from Nabokov’s Lolita and Kenneth Starr’s investigation of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, The Starr Report with original lines.
  7. Golden shovels – This form creates a sort of back-loaded acrostic (using words instead of letters). Basically, you select a line from a poem, isolate each word in that found line, and then use each of those words in order as the end words for each line of your poem.Terrance Hayes invented this poem with his poem “The Golden Shovel.”

    You can find more complete instructions for form here.

  8. Isolations – Select a single word or structure to “follow” throughout a body of text, isolate it, and present those isolations.For example, one of the poems I’ll be posting this month selects all the dialog from a single chapter of The Regulators. Another isolates every time a proper name is mentioned in a set of pages and presents each in order, with a few words that follow each presentation. (If the name occurred in the subject of the sentence, I would generally select the words up to the verb. If the name occurred in the predicate, I would generally select words to the period.)

    I’m also considering creating a poem that tracks a single word through the entire novel (though I haven’t done that yet, so who knows?).

    This form creates a sort of “condensed” experience of the text. It also, in some ways, suggests a sort of literary analysis of the text.

  9. Found + form – Use any variety of found poem to create a work in form. For example, a remix sestina or an erasure ghazal.These are hard. The only ones I’ve tried have been remix haiku.

What other forms am I missing? Add your comments below.


Cut, paste, write!

Salem Times Register intern Stephanie Floyd just posted on Facebook some of the photos she took at WordSparks on Tuesday. With her permission, I am posting them here. For our collage project, we made word/image collages with a center word and four corner words. After creating sentences that connected the central word with the corner words, we used those sentences as the springboard for a story. When we didn’t know where to go in our stories, we let the pictures guide us to our next idea.

All photos below are the property of Stephanie Floyd / Salem Times Register. Here we are working on our collages, reading our stories, and playing some games.

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Self-portraits / WordSparks

I had a great time making self-portraits with the WordSparks kids last week–both in art and poetry.

IMG_4552 IMG_4510 IMG_4548IMG_4500  IMG_4556IMG_4547 IMG_4505IMG_4518  IMG_4545 IMG_4544IMG_4526IMG_4553Hand colored self-portraitIMG_4550

Ok, that last one wasn’t a camper. He’s my cutie-patootie toddler whose portrait my daughter colored… but how could I leave him out?

After we worked on our self-portraits, we wrote some “I AM” poems.

I’ll include a few here (some transcribed, and some in their handwritten form):


I AM  ~ Laura Voros

I am a nose of a hound.
I am an eye of an eagle.
I am the howl of the wolf.
I am the ear of a fox.
I am the leg of a cheetah.
I am the teeth of the lion.
I am the knowledge of the world.
I am the moon.
I am the sun.
I am Mother Nature.


I AM ~ Zachary Schultz

I am the sun that shines on your house. I am your house. I am the painting in your house. I am your bed that the painting hangs over. I am the dog that lays in your bed. I am the collar on your dog. I am the tick that hides under your dog’s collar. I am your son that gets rid of the tick that hides under your dog’s collar. I am your son’s favorite amusement park. I am your son’s favorite ride at the amusement park.



I AM ~ Caleb Ching


I AM ~ Elizabeth Bourlakas


I AM ~ Sarah Scultz

And just a few more photos from the day:


IMG_4488 IMG_4494 IMG_4495 IMG_4503 IMG_4520 IMG_4515 IMG_4523 IMG_4555

If you’re interested in making similar portraits or self-portraits or writing I AM poems, here’s some info.

Portrait Instructions:

First I took photos of the kids standing against a white wall (as I didn’t want the background to be too distracting).

I opened the photos in the regular Windows Photoviewer program (from Windows 7… I have Windows 8, but I loaded the older photoviewer program on my computer, as I like it better). Then I made them grayscale (which is one of the “effects” that come up on the bar at the top of the photoviewer) and cropped them into a square. I save those files under a new name.

I reopened the new files in GIMP (which is a program similar to Photoshop, but unlike Photoshop, it can be downloaded for free). In Gimp, I chose “Filters” and then “Artistic” and then “Photocopy.” (You used to be able to do this project using an actual photocopy machine, but now they are all too fancy and the photos just look like photos– which is not the desired effect for this project.)

I just played with the setting that popped up until I got the desired result (which is something like a coloring book outline of a face).


For example, for this photo, I used

Then you have to export the photo to make it a jpg so it will print. In GIMP, go under “File” and choose “Export.” Then replace “xcf” in the title line with “jpg” after the period.

Then just print, cut, and let the kids color. We used oil pastels, markers, and colored pencils. As you can see from the examples above, each has a different effect.

For the I AM poems, I just told the kids to think metaphorically (we talked a while about metaphor and I gave them examples off the top of my head), think about shifting parts of speech (so they wouldn’t just use adjectives, but nouns and verbs and whatnot),  be wild, have fun–and most importantly, not to worry about making sense!

Oh yeah, also I told them to write at least 10 lines, each beginning with “I am.” 🙂

Where Did the Green Man Come From? / WordSparks

Green girl power!

Green girl power!

Here’s the second in a series of posts about last week’s WordSparks Creative Writing Camp at the Salem Museum. I was genuinely thrilled to see these young people enjoying the fun of live drama as they gathered materials for their Green Man (and Woman) Masks and created an origin story for the mysterious Green Man seen for centuries in art and architecture. The kids came up with fantastic stories about how the green folk turned green! I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves.


Plotting out the play


Good idea!


What a smile!


Ready to go!


The audience awaits…


Wait a minute! We’re still working!


Follow the leader!


The play begins!


The boys plot their play






The afternoon group gathers greens




Collecting from the garden


… and more collecting


So lovely!


Howard and Kaylan




Making the masks…


At work!




Rainbow eyes!


The team

Green Man (and Woman!) Masks

(photo copyright Mary Crockett)

(photo copyright Mary Crockett)

I’m gearing up for leading WordSparks Creative Writing Camp next week, so I’m getting my kids busy trying out a few of the projects I’ve planned. The first one we tried out is the Green Man (or Woman) Mask.

Basically, the Green Man is a leafy-faced dude who has appeared in art and architecture since ancient times. He looks like this:

(Green Man photos courtesy of Wikimedai Commons. First image by Johannes Otto Först, second and third by Simon Garbutt.)

The idea for the craft is to gather natural materials from the gardens and park surrounding the museum to use in a Green Man or Green Woman mask. Then we’ll write a mask poem… or mask story for the prose inclined.

As I got my kids to  make some prototypes, here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. There is no “wrong” way to do this (at least by my standards).

2. Glue-gun glue is HOT!

3. When you go outside with a big basket and start throwing in lots of leaves, flowers, twigs, grass, etc., and them come back in and dump it all on your kitchen table, you can expect to find tiny bugs on and around your kitchen table for quite a while.

3. My baby makes a super cute Green Man.

The bearded lady. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

The bearded lady. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

Diablo. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

Diablo. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

Mr. Chin Music. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

Mr. Chin Music. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

The Green Girl. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

The Green Girl. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

The Stache. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)

The Stache. (photo copyright Mary Crockett)