This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 423,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Slam Tutorial: "Found" Poems


A "found poem" is ostensibly a poem that the poet does not write, but instead finds.

"Found poetry" is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry by making changes in spacing and/or lines (and consequently meaning), or by altering the text by additions and/or deletions. The resulting poem can be defined as either treated: changed in a profound and systematic manner; or untreated: virtually unchanged from the order, syntax and meaning of the original.

Found poems take a great deal of effort to locate and rewrite. One of slam poetry's greats is Big Poppa E's "Receipt Found In The Parking Lot Of The Super WalMart," which he readily admits isn't actually a "found poem" but easily could have been.

If you can, try "finding" a poem from an everyday source.

Big Poppa E is one of poetry slam's greats. He was among the first slam poets I ever saw, way back at Mesa's Essenza Coffeehouse in 2000, when most of my fans were still in elementary school. If you enjoy slam, there are a number of books to have on your shelf, not the least of which is Big Poppa E's Greatest Hits: Poems To Read Out Loud "A special collection of dynamic performance poetry by Big Poppa E, perfect for high school and college speech students to use in competition or anyone who mistakenly thinks they hate poetry! BPE is a spoken word artist and three-time HBO Def Poet who melds rhythmic verse, stand-up comedy, and dramatic monologue into explosive works that skewer pop culture, politics, and the pain and beauty of relationships. His musings have led to appearances on BET's The Way We Do It sketch comedy series, National Public Radio, and CBS's 60 Minutes (although, truth be told, he was only on for about three seconds... but still...)."

Slate.com had a bit of fun in 2003 with found poetry, essentially targeting then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Whether this we an attempt as emasculation or just poking fun at his irritating speaking style, Slate.com wrote: "Rumsfeld's poetry is paradoxical: It uses playful language to address the most somber subjects: war, terrorism, mortality. Much of it is about indirection and evasion: He never faces his subjects head on but weaves away, letting inversions and repetitions confuse and beguile. His work, with its dedication to the fractured rhythms of the plainspoken vernacular, is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams'. Some readers may find that Rumsfeld's gift for offhand, quotidian pronouncements is as entrancing as Frank O'Hara's."

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Glass Box
You know, it's the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.
It's—

And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
But—

Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,
But—

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

—Dec. 6, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

A Confession
Once in a while,
I'm standing here, doing something.
And I think,
"What in the world am I doing here?"
It's a big surprise.

—May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times

Happenings
You're going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don't happen.

It doesn't seem to bother people, they don't—
It's printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.

Everyone's so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story's there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven't happened.

All I can tell you is,
It hasn't happened.
It's going to happen.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

The Digital Revolution
Oh my goodness gracious,
What you can buy off the Internet
In terms of overhead photography!

A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!

—June 9, 2001, following European trip

The Situation
Things will not be necessarily continuous.
The fact that they are something other than perfectly continuous
Ought not to be characterized as a pause.
There will be some things that people will see.
There will be some things that people won't see.
And life goes on.

—Oct. 12, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

Clarity
I think what you'll find,
I think what you'll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

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