Found Poems in Altered Books

A few times each session, I teach what Interlochen calls “forum.” This involves all 39 Intermediate (middle school) Creative Writing Majors gathering in The Great Room for an hour-long activity taught by one—that’s one—instructor. Today, I introduced them to the concept of found poems in altered books.
[From Karen Hatzig, a great resource for this project.]
They’d heard of found poems before, but the idea of actually ripping pages out of books, cutting covers or moving letters and tearing photos—well, that was news to them. Thanks to Interlochen’s Bonisteel Library and one savvy librarian, I got my hands on about 50 books that were meant to be discarded.
“Today, we are going to attempt something that quite possibly has never been done before,” I told them. “Over the course of two days, in just two hours, we are going to see if we can find 39 poems in these books.” I had their attention, mostly. “And we’re going to tear pages,” I said, breaking the spine of a book. A few gasped. One student visibly cringed. I paused, then: “I know. It hurts a little. Almost like breaking a bone. But wait until you see what we can do…”
And so I showed them a close-up shot of a sample found poem altered book I did:
And another one, a personal fave that I found online:
Before I could finish giving instructions, students began inching closer to the pile of books, eyeing their covers to get dibs on the “best” picks. Not five minutes after their scurrying, the room fell to a lovely hush as they engaged almost immediately in their hunt for found poems:
Tomorrow, I’ll post photos of the results of some of their creations.
Showing 5 comments
  • maeuschen

    How amazing is the mind's ability to form patterns! This looks like something movie John Nash might do in A Beautiful Mind.

    (Real-life John Nash suffered a different form of schizophrenia, not related to the pattern-forming mania shown in the movie.)

    Where do you get the books to slice up? Also, as a writer, is there something a little gruesome about destroying one work to create another? A sort of Mary Shelly kind of thing? Curious.

  • Katey Schultz

    got the books from the library here – they were going to be discarded. they were for sale and the ones that didn't sell were going to the trash! so yes, it's hard to kill books and tear them up, but it was better than seeing them thrown out! what hurts more as a writer is seeing really amazing books for sale in the bargain bin at giant stores like borders. i look at 300-page novels that i know took a decade of someone's life and they're marked down to $3. that kills.

  • kitty

    I see found books like writer's prompts…and also the ones I've seen usually have an aspect of visual art in them as well…the process instead of destruction seems more like a collaboration at several levels..with the original author who likely was never met…and on a personal level a collaboration of the mind/eyes/words/hands…

  • Mendy (Hillpoet)

    Great post Katey! Very helpful and inspirational. I hadn't done this before, but now I will. Thanks so much, you brilliant gal!

  • Sandra

    These turned out great! Glad our books could go towards such a creative use.

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