In Keep Writing last week I mentioned the concept of ‘found poetry’, a loose term covering various methods of creating poetry using pre-existing texts.
If you want to know more, the best place to start is the wikipedia entry on it –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Found_poetry – this explains the background and explores an unexpected connection between found poetry and the insanity-tinged utterances of right wing American politicians, e.g. the poem created from a speech by Donald Rumsfeld and William Shatner’s rendition of some lectern-based babblings from Sarah Palin (‘speech’ is too good a word). You can see The Shat, as he’s known (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=The%20Shat), perform here; I particularly like that he’s backed by a man playing a bongo drum:
It’s not all satire though. Dorothy Alexander – who teaches the Centre for Lifelong Learning’s online creative writing classes – is a proponent of found poetry and you can see one of the exercises she has created for it here:
I also mentioned in class the connection between the form and William Burroughs, who talks about the technique in the clip included at this link:
. . . and, deriving from Burroughs, David Bowie. He talks about using the technique for his songwriting in the 1975 documentary ‘Cracked Actor’: you can watch the whole thing on the link below. The part specific to his writing begins at 16:00 although it might be a good idea to skip the really horrible arrangement of ‘Moonage Daydream’ that directly follows:
Finally, for more of the verbatim stuff I handed out in class, click the link below (again courtesy of wikipedia). This is my favourite type of found poetry as it’s mostly unedited and untampered with. If nothing else, it demonstrates what you can get from careful listening and reading. Sometimes you’ve got to look really closely to find the gems: