As a librarian’s daughter, an avid reader, and an English major, I am always attracted to wordy art projects, and I often find artworks made out of recycled print absolutely beautiful while simultaneously wincing over the fact that one must deface books to create them. After all, books are meant to be read, and what are they when they are no longer readable?
For some artworks like the roses above, one could easily substitute with magazine pages or old maps (about which I feel decidedly less squeamish), and for others newspaper will also work.
However, I have finally lit upon a type of altered book artwork that bothers me less than others, because while it still alters the original intent, the book still gets ‘read’ in a new fashion.
Found Poetry in Altered Book Pages
As with the roses, this is an activity that can be done using other forms of the printed word (newspapers, magazines) and can also be done without altering the original text at all (words captured and written down in a new form from museum object labels, etc.) However, it combines both poetry and the visual arts in a way that is perfect for the programming that we do at PEM for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. (Guess what’s going in this year’s program?)
How does Illustrated Found Poetry work?
- Pick a piece of text with a decent amount of wording to it.
- Read through it for the sounds of the words and not necessarily the narrative or the original author’s intent.
- Find a theme to the words that inspires you. Use as many or as few as you like: cherry pick a word here, a phrase there, etc.
- The one limit to working on the original sheet is that you cannot rearrange the words to your own liking–the poem flows in the same direction as the original text did.
- Pencil boxes around the words you want.
- Pencil in any illustrations (doodles, sketches, details) that help to give your new poem mood, shape, or further depth.
- Use marker to darken the boxes around your poem and color in the details of your illustration. You may want to use highlighter within the boxes for your poem to help pick it out of the illustration, depending on how much color there already is in your drawing.
- Use black marker to cross out any words left that are not part of your poem or are already obscured by your illustration.
The plan is to have a bunch of genres of books available from which to select pages: sci-fi, mystery, classics, memoirs, maybe even some more technical books. Hopefully this will show people that poetry can be found absolutely anywhere. The 2013 festival will be held May 3-5 in numerous venues around Salem–I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!