A found poem, as I understand it, is just that. Something you find and decide it’s a poem. Not someone else’s work but maybe words from an old tombstone or, for example, an old classified advertisement (see below). Someone once even turned the BBC Shipping Forecast into a found poem!
Found poems were popular in the 70s. At the time, George MacBeth, poet and radio producer (1932-1992) was the editor of a poetry programme on Radio 3 called Poetry Now.
George was very taken with my found poems and invited me on his programme to read the ones you see here. I would, of course, have much preferred to have been reading my own poems. Found poems are ok but I find it hard to take the credit for something I didn’t write in the first place!
I found this one on a Victorian poster. It is set out exactly as I found it.
Beware of the man with the carpet bag!
Innkeeps are cautioned against a Man
with a Carpet Bag, who Travels about
with no other Luggage than that alluded to.
He fills his Carpet Bag with Cabbage Leaves,
or other Rubbish, which he generally empties
under his Bed, and substitutes whatever
Valuables may come in his way, utterly
regardless who may be the Owner of the
Property. The Man with the Carpet Bag
has already visited several Hotels and
Inns in the Vicinity, the Landlords of
which have been Minus several Valuables,
and plus only a Parcel of Cabbage Leaves.
Here’s one from another Victorian poster:
A Sailor of the name of Jargen Kroger,
left or strayed away, on Wednesday the
13th from the Danish Vessel, Persina of
Blankeness; he is about 40 years of age,
walks slow, was dressed in a blue jacket,
fustian trousers and waistcoat, scotch cap,
cannot speak English and is insane.
This next one was an advertisement in the Musical Times, 1850:
He must have a tenor voice
and fair knowledge of music
so as to be able to
take part in a choir
We also need a boy to milk
and take charge of the cows
Only those with good voice
This news item came from the Montana Post, 1865. I’ve shortened the lines but the words are exactly as I found them.
a bull dog
A fight ensued
the death of
whose owner shot
and killed the dog
The jury judged
that he should pay
to cover the cost
of the funeral
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems