T. S. Eliot wrote, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” Some people believe that there’s nothing new under the sun and that everything we create is based on something that’s already existed. And I’m totally on board with that idea. It’s a tremendous amount of pressure, not to mention wholly impractical, to be original 100% of the time.
While this idea is ripe for a deeper philosophical discussion, today it serves a kick-start to encouraging our kids’ art and creativity. Are you ready? Because for this Adventure in Learning, we’re entering the wild world of found poetry. Buckle up!
Poetry is a wonderful way to get kids thinking about words in a not-so-literal sense. It’s liberating, freeing, and some educators suggest it can teach and reach kids in a way prose can’t.
Punctuation and proper sentence structure are not important when it comes to crafting a poem. Instead, you want to create feeling and rhythm. So rather than get bound up by convention, the freedom of poetry can help kids let the words flow in a way that other writing doesn’t. Check out the Poet Warriors Project for examples.
But who better to answer the question, “Why poetry,” than a poet? In an article for Edutopia, writer Elena Aguilar shared this thought from poet Jeanette Winterson:
“…When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read in school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers — a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”
What is Found Poetry?
Found poetry is when you take existing words, phrases, or passages and re-frame them to create poetry. The idea is that you take things other people left laying around and use them to create something new. So you’re “stealing” (in a sense, but not really) with the goal to create something new. And that’s what we call, creativity.
Finding the Words
So how can we introduce our kids to Found Poetry? Start by encouraging your child to look around them. Words are everywhere. If they’re looking over your shoulder, they’re reading them right now. They’re on scrap pieces of paper, signs, books, junk mail, cereal boxes, etc. And even when you don’t see them, you hear them spoken every day. They spill out of our mouths and tumble onto the ground. Words are just laying around, ready for you to pick them up and play with them. We’re filled with words from the tiptop of our head all the way down to our wiggly little toes.
- masking tape
- marker or pen
- list of words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, exclamations, articles/conjunctions
- Place strips of masking tape onto socks. One strip for each sock.
- Write a word on each strip, so that every sock has a word on it. You can ask your child to come up with a list and write them down as he/she says them. Save a few socks to add words kids might need to help round out their poetic expression (from the list above).
- Place the socks on the floor or in a laundry basket.
- Now, take turns with your child to create poetic lines from the words listed on the socks.
Socks not your thing? You can do this with index cards or strips of scrap paper. Think of the popular refrigerator poetry magnets.
Older kids can try their hand at found poetry by taking a newspaper article and highlighting words to create a line of poetry and using a black marker to black out the rest.
Or your kids can go the route of the Beats and create a poetic collage by gluing together cut up strips of writing. How does writing change when you rearrange its flow? This can help kids understand the importance of flow in essays and other writing.
Poetry to Inspire
Are your kids hooked yet? Check out these books at your next library visit to further inspire your young poet.
I Heard it From Alice Zucchini: Poems about the Garden
Now We are Six
Love That Dog
Brown Girl Dreaming
Tamera Will Wissinger