Does Found Poetry Count?

I spent a lot of time in the past week sifting through the project that I abandoned this past July — the one that’s referenced under my ridiculously cheerful photo here. It was good … I think. Or maybe it was all just a fun parlor game.

My concerns about what I wrote as part of that project are not regarding plagiarism; the phrases that I cut out (not literally, though I know that’s a whole thing) and then stitched together in new ways were so tiny that they don’t represent entire thoughts of any other writer.

My concern is this: Does a poem that is assembled from bits of stuff rather than — oh, I don’t know — either wafting in through an open window, perfect and entire, or being labored over for hours … I’m losing my train of thought, but anyway, does it count?

If I see interesting leaps where the poem becomes something dazzling that I would never have come up with on my own, is that enough for it to be a real poem? And if I have reason to believe that someone else using the same technique with the same material would come up with something completely different, was my mind present enough to say that this is my poem?

These questions are not meant to knock found poetry: I’ve read some great examples of it, and maybe you have, too — maybe without even realizing it. When it’s done well, I think the device often disappears, or it is just one clever aspect of a poem that also works in other ways. I know this about other people’s found poetry, but when I write it, I hold it suspect.

Do I need to get over this?


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