Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Found Poetry


Another of the things that irked me at Bryan Bartlet's reading for the Poetry Centre the other week was his explanation and examples of "found poetry." The way he explained it was so foreign to my understanding of it that it is no wonder I found his presentation lacking in either passion or meaning. (Am I so old that a form that was bright and exciting, one step away from pure dada when we practiced it, has become lifeless?)

This is the way he explained it. Carefully saearch through a large volume such as Tolstoy's War and Peace for words and phrases. Put them together. What you have found will be a poem. In other words, take a beautiful building and rip it apart. Take a brick from here, a cornice from there, a tile or two, and don't forget a window sill. Fit them together and you will have the beauty and the spirit of the building. This is not the way I learned and wrote "found poems" in the 1960s.

In those times, what happened first (not last) was that you found the poem. No matter where; it could be anything, anywhere. One of the finest I "found" was in a magazine ad for a newly imported whiskey. The ad's copywriter had waxed eloquent beyond standard sales hype and I recognized the underlying poetry. By cutting the references to drink and other specifics, and positioning words and phrases in an order not meant or initially apparent, an ad for whiskey became an ode to beauty.

I no longer have a copy of that poem but the finding of the poem, the crafting and the shaping, and the satisfaction of the final result stay with me, even forty years later.

This is a poem I "found" in an interview with a local musician in H Magazine for October '08.


ELECTROLUMINESCENT


opportunity on the floor
.......................a sitting fixture
guitar...keyboards...electronic percussion
complex meditative ideas
...............live layers counterpoint
interpretive.....experimental.....looping
............creative phrasings
expand into more complicated

.................ideas
mesmerizing pieces of sound
............swirling everchanging sounds

forever proclaim the mantra

every pair of ears
.....................deserves its own mind

.................................(jefferson 05/11/08)

The words come from the two parties to the interview; the structure and arrangement are mine.

1 comment:

annaken said...

Good morning, Jefferson,

I know very little about poetry forms and am still learning as I go along. I listen to suggestions by well established poets in the two poetry groups I belong to, and try to apply them to my own work as best as I can.

Perhaps this gentleman learned about "found poetry" that way?

I did not attend this poetry reading as the bus service out that way is not very good at night, but used to attend them all when they were at Central Library.

What is pure "Dada"?