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Mar 05

Found Poems

 

Commonality

You dine under the stars
(the longer the better)
to intersperse the lean meat
with cubes of fatty meat.
A single dish —
A style of cooking —
A kind of meal —
A culinary common denominator —
The circus like swirl of activity
in exceptionally tasty lamb.

 

To See the Future

Who set down in writing —
this thing which is come to pass?
Seers? Experts? Anybody?
These… loose sentences and the
nonrestrictive clause are a cliche,
and a fuzzy one,
meant to set off an abrupt break
(or “interruption”) for repeated action.
Confusion and ambiguity result,
and a common blunder is thinking:
“They are related in thought.”
They are not…
but parallel to that mistake, it pits
     you
     vs.
     yourself.
It’s best to avoid the difficulty altogether —
adopt a more common mark of
deductive thought and foresight,
and shape your future with purpose.

 


Some Commentary

 
The source text for Commonality is The Barbecue! Bible by Steven Raichlen. All the lines in the poem are direct pulls from the source text – specifically the section entitled Mechoui Mystique and the surrounding pages/recipes. The phrase that birthed the poem was “a culinary common denominator”. In the source text, the author was discussing a specific cooking style that is common throughout Morocco, but for me there is something inherently soul satisfying about sharing a meal and that phrase called to mind food in general and communal dining. The reference to fatty/lean meat is an allegory for all the potential differences among the various participants and the fact that when we sit down to dine together none of those differences really matter; the resulting blend of humanity is greater than its constituent parts. Commonality is meant to evoke images of the fellowship that develops through a shared meals as well as depicting a specific meal (lamb).

 
The source text for To See the Future is The Elements of Style (4th Edition) by William Strunk and E. B. White. It’s not entirely a “found” poem because I added some words and phrases of my own – the last two lines do not come from the source text. I struggled more with To See the Future than I did with Commonality because I selected the source lines for the poem randomly (using my dice!) so they were more disjoint and less interrelated. The line that finally got the poem started was “Seers? Experts? Anybody?”; taken out of context, it made me think of fortune tellers and set the topic for the poem. Unlike Commonality I had set an arbitrary restriction for this poem that I had to use all the source lines and some of them simply would not fit unaltered so, in order to make something useful of the source lines without altering the source text, I allowed myself the option of joining the source phrases with original words/phrases provided the majority of the final result was still “found”. In the end, 36 out of 92 words (slightly less than 40%) ended up being original.

 
In my experience (slight though it is), found poems have a tendency to be very abstracted because it’s the arrangement (and potentially the punctuation) of the words, not the words themselves that belong to the author. But that’s part of what makes writing them fun.

6 comments

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  1. Dan Hughes

    Love it!

    1. thegoblin

      Thank you! I think the second one turned out particularly well, but I’m biased lol

  2. Liz

    I like them both. The first one has made me hungry though…
    Now I want to try!

    1. thegoblin

      If you do, I want to see it! ^__^

      Also, I need to update the post with the books I used as reference for each of the poems – I was in a hurry and straight-up forgot. The texts I chose won’t surprise anyone who knows me: a cookbook and a writing book. Ha! Finally done! 🙂

  3. -the mama

    I like the second one too! You know me and your cooking!

    1. thegoblin

      Yes, I know how you LOVE my cooking lol

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