Kids Say the Darndest Things, including Found Poetry

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:

Found poetry: Text/language that wasn’t meant to be poetic (i.e., speech, a Tweet, an advertisement, etc.) reveals poetic elements. My favorite is when the original message hasn’t been changed, just formatted into the broken lines of poetry. The Wikipedia page for found poetry has a few speeches that were converted into poetry.

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:

we run through the dark digital chalkboard art by swapna gardner nerdladydraws

May you run through whatever darkness you face today… and possibly find some poetry along the way.

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January + February Highlights

Coming out of the holidays is rough. You have that high of hot cocoa and carols and you’re screaming like Buddy the Elf–and then… it’s January. And all it is, is cold.

My 2019 has been hectic so far. Frantically grading and lesson planning, still trying to get used to my new job, and making room to create so that I can stay sane. I had grand goals for this season, but school took over. Nevertheless, I saw some growth and created some cool things, so I’m going to celebrate those little victories. Here’s an update on The Nerd Lady!

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How Lettering Saved Me

When I was young, I often wished that I could make art erupt out of my fingers and wrap around my entire body. Only then could I feel the stress melt away, I thought. Only then could I feel alive when my anxiety froze everything inside of me.

I thought my art form was writing. In many ways it is. But with writing comes its own form of anxiety–the dread of the blank page, the pressure to keep moving on, the failure when you let go of a project. Writing demands time. It requires soaking in the right moment, bathing in emotions and memories.

And when Jaya was born, finding that time became impossible.

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