Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Found Poetry & Blackout Poetry

Found Poetry 
Found poetry is created by selecting words from an original source and arranging them...well, poetically. Its approach is less daunting than 'writing poetry,' and can produce some amazing (and very fun) poems. Indeed, "Pulling some words from their context and calling them Poetry is about as logical as putting a frame around a landscape and calling it Art… and just as effective." Given the words, students play with syntax and form - making poetry a game and words the pieces.

It's as easy as 1-2-3..
1. Choose a text
2. Choose words
3. Rearrange them to make a poem!

You can make found poems as a class or individually. When reading Brave New World, a novel full of challenging vocabulary, I asked my students to open up to page 6 & 7 and to start yelling out words they find. I compiled a list on the whiteboard, set the rules (in this case that we had to use word in its original form (so 'civil' couldn't become 'civility') - you can also make rules about adding 'little' words, and even about shapes of the poem). As I worked mine out on the white board, students could watch or create their own. I started playing a song, and by the time the track was finished, I had adjusted, added, erased, and re-arranged the words into a poem. To wrap up, we talked about how (and if) my final poem connected to the original text, and their homework was to make one of their own.

Blackout Poetry
A simple (and strangely satisfying) alternative to plucking out words is to cross them out. Take a black marker or pen, a newspaper or a photocopy or a printout, and get to work. This style, called 'blackout poetry,' has been made famous by Austin Kleon, a computer programmer and writer in Austin, TX.

Food for Thought
What's the point? 
- write to enjoy words (if that's not standard enough, see below)
- create a mood (creepy, thoughtful, angry)
- play with tone (joking, whimsical, satirical)
- condense to a main idea / theme
- cross subject areas (try it with a math textbook page, or a social studies primary source)

How could you approach writing a found/blackout poem? 
- scan through and note words that stick out at you
- find a specific word and then skim for words that flow from it
- read through passage/article/paragraphs well and intentionally go back for words
- cross out words at random and see what's left
- make a shape, or use white space to connect paths of words

Common Core Standards
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- (9-10) Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.
- (6-12) Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

Buck, Pearl S. "On Discovering America." Portrait of America: Survey Graphic in the Thirties. American Studies @ The University of Virginia. Web. 26 July 2011. .
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.

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