When I started The Nerd Lady, one of my many hopes for my creative projects was to create artwork that could get girls excited about science and adventure. I wanted to create dinosaur and outer space art for little girls like mine so they could dream about discovery and exploration. There’s plenty of this for boys, but not much for girls. As I started focusing more and more on literary lettering, however, I let go of this hope.
My grandmother died in India on March 23 (22 in the US). The US memorial service was the next day, too soon for me to fully process everything I was feeling. I spoke at her service, but I still wasn’t ready. This is the eulogy I would have liked to have given.
The defining characteristics of my family are sarcasm, sassiness, skepticism, and a nearly unhealthy level of feistiness. That made losing our sweet Ammachi that much harder to bear.
Found poetry is magic. It is when commonplace words and text reveal themselves as poetry. A classic example is this piece by William Carlos Williams:
This is just to say
I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox
and which you were probably saving for breakfast
Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold
**Note: I think this was just written in the style of found poetry, as if it were written on a note in the kitchen. But you get the idea. (Aside: This poem annoys my students like no other. They cannot accept it as a poem and it is hilarious to see them so angry about poetry!)
This street art counts:
So does this passive aggressive Facebook post by a relative, posted after a family event…
That I turned into this:
Some family pictures are very confusing. Those who don’t like each other pose and smile, hugging.
When I searched for other examples of “found poetry,” I was overwhelmed by teaching resources that somehow confused found poetry with blackout poetry. Allow me to differentiate:
Blackout poetry: Drawing on a printed page of prose to reveal poetry within the page. This requires deletion of words and manipulation of the original message. The best blackout poetry somehow highlights a thematic idea that aligns with the original text. For example:
Blackout poetry is often used in grade school poetry lessons because kids feel it is easier to “create” poetry if all one has to do is find it on the page. Plus, engaging in visual arts gives them a chance to see the art in poetry.
Both require finding poetry, and are therefore magical in their own way. To me, the beauty of poetry is in putting words—beautiful ones, simple ones, ones that you never would have imagined—to the complexity of human experience. I love that poetry is—as Ralph Fletcher describes it—a “fresh” way of looking at our boring world, that thus forces us to perceive our reality with new eyes. Both found and blackout poetry do that. I prefer found poetry because the words and message are kept in their original form, just reformatted to highlight their beauty.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the real reason I decided to muse on found poetry today…
My two-year-old says the cutest things. She’s finally at the point where she can say complete sentences, even some compound ones. She also loves demanding that I pick her up and run through the house, as if I were a horse. Quite exhausting, might I add.
The other day, she climbed on me, commanded me to run, and pointed out the path I should take through the house.
The front room was dark. The blinds were closed, and it was a cloudy day.
“Oh no, it’s dark in there,” she said. But she insisted. “We run through the dark!”
I loved her determination and courage in that moment. To me, that’s poetry. A wild child riding her mom and demanding that we both run through that which scares us.
And so I had to create this:
May you run through whatever darkness you face today… and possibly find some poetry along the way.