One of the most difficult aspects of writing poetry (or indeed anything!) is coming up with a topic or theme.

The following exercise is a fun way to create a poem using inspiration from other people’s words.

The purpose of this exercise is to use words or phrases that you might not have thought of before, therefore expanding your word repertoire and creating a poem with a theme or subject you may not have previously considered.

Found words poetry exercise

Take a selection of books, magazines, technical books – as random as possible. Perhaps do this at the library and delve into sections you might not normally use, such as scientific books, philosophy or even car manuals!

Open each book at any page and select words and phrases that you like the sound of. 

Don’t select to a theme, be completely random and write the words/phrases down from different sources, until you have about twenty in total.

Now, choose the ones you like best (or use all of them if you like) to create your poem. The poem can be any style and you can add your own words around the ‘found’ words and phrases, or just use what you found.

Below is an example of one that I wrote whilst on a poetry workshop doing this very exercise. You can probably tell that most of my preferred phrases came from a magazine with an article about climate change! I added my own words to the found words in this example.

What you might notice in this poem, is the intentional use of alliteration, assonance and consonance (marked in blue), as discussed in week 5.

Penetrate the meniscus

Press a finger through and

Feel the silent WHOOSH

As water greedily

Devours your digit

Fractured blues and hues

Of turquoise puzzle-pieces

Slap and lap and try

To tie you up in weedy knots

Of liquid treachery

A trillion gallons of

Dew and thawing permafrost

Curate their murky ambition

With pharmaceutical fish

Pump the aquifer dry

For supreme magic to purify

The climate-science circles

Of tepid doubts on drought

I would love to see your own ‘found words’ poems, please do feel free to post them in the comments below.

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