Found Poetry Finds Popularity

Writers use non-fiction pieces to craft found poems across all domains for a New York Times writing contest.

By Stef Durr


typewriter spelling out 'poetry'

What is Found Poetry?

Released earlier this month, “On World Poetry Day, We’re All Poets” describes what is called a discovery poem. As it turns out, it is also known as a found poem.

Found poetry has become a very popular poetic form in the classroom. Often likened to a collage, this method requires the writer to use a text, such as a magazine article, a sports report, a play, or even another poem, to search for language. The goal of this type of poetry is to select words or phrases, reorder, and structure them based on rhythm. The trick is that the author can’t typically add new language; instead, he works solely with the words in the text.


Example of a Found Poem

To prove that literally all types of text can create a found poem, author Alan Feuer uses the Missed Connections section of Craigslist to find inspiration. Using this text as his basis, he creates short, honest, poetic rewrites of peoples' encounters.

Found Poetry is Growing in Popularity

Writer’s block hits the majority of people who sit down with a notebook or a laptop and try to write something brilliant. With a found poem, the words are already there; the student simply chooses the ones he or she wants to use, and reorders them until he finds an appealing rhythm. This type of poem is especially powerful for people who never believed they could write, or for those who struggle with writing.

Found Poetry Contest

For the fourth year in a row, The Learning NetworkThe New York Times education blog, is hosting a found poetry contest. Entries can be submitted from now until April 15, 2013. While the timeline seems short, it is sufficient. Creating these poems isn’t time consuming. You have more than enough time to present this contest to your writers, have them create a first draft, and even enough time for them to experiment with the word order. While no cash prize is offered, the winners get published on a blog that draws readers from around the world.

The Contest Rules

Complete rules for entering the contest appear on The Learning Network, but here’s a basic summary:

  • New York Times article must be the text of inspiration.
  • Each writer can only submit one poem.
  • Writers must be between 13 and 25 years old.
  • Poems must be shorter than 14 lines long.
  • Writers can only add two words of their own.
  • The original article’s URL must be provided.
  • Submissions are collected online directly through the blog.

Who Can Participate

Staying current with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the blog understands the need to implement more non-fiction reading in the classroom. Sure, language arts and English classes seem like a perfect platform for this contest, but with the amount of non-fiction reading in other subjects, the contest is applicable to science, history, media, health, and even math!

Inspiring Articles for Found Poetry

Found poetry writers can choose their own article of inspiration, but if time is tight, consider using one of these. The language is poetic, and each provides writers with a strong foundation.

No Time for this Found Poetry Contest?

Short on time? If testing, spring break, and other pressing unit plans make this contest impossible for this year's class, consider creating a found poem contest of your own at your school. Poets of all ages are capable of creating interesting pieces with this art form, and a contest is a great way to build a strong school community!