May 20, 2013 “Altered Books” and Found Poetry
Though the “Altered Books” page on Logolalia.com hasn’t been updated in a while, it holds 730 examples of a certain type of found poetry. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, “found poetry” refers to poems which are made of words found in other texts, which are then altered by the removal, reconfiguration, or addition of words or spaces. In one type of found poetry, poems are found in pages of books, and the other words are deleted and arranged in visual, artistic ways.
Here’s an example I made this morning:
Another type of Found poetry that I’ve learned about is Flarf poetry. It’s caused a bit of controversy in the poetry world, because it involves googling random terms and fitting together the results through random juxtapositions–many people wonder where the artistry and intellectual meaning can be found in poems like these. I think the overwhelming amount of meaningful and meaningless information that can be found on the internet makes an interesting statement about technology and humanity itself, so I appreciate some of the “nonsense” in flarf. Read more about this experimental style and the controversy it’s created in this article in Poets and Writers magazine, “Can Flarf Ever Be Taken Seriously?”
Found poetry (in all forms) is beautiful to me for two reasons: 1. It reminds us that poetry can also exist in connections that have already occurred, or naturally occur in the world–we just have to be in the right frame of mind to recognize it. 2. Especially with “altered books,” a lot of the meaning in these poems arises through the removal of certain elements. Logolalia calls it poetry through “the process of obliteration.” I love the idea of creating something through reductions, as if making it simpler gives it a whole new meaning.
Try your own–Take a page from a novel, or a newspaper or academic article for something more challenging, and pick out a poem. Get rid of the other words and highlight the poem while paying attention to the visual aspects of the poem. Or try flarf–google one topic or two, pick out random lines/words from the search results, and then cut, copy, and paste them together. Alter the lines as much as you want, or keep the intact. See if you can find new meaning in text that already exists.
Get Excited and Find Poetry.