Scarriet recently exposed the current poetry avant-garde scene as a mere elaboration of that quaint old device: the found poem.

The philosophy of the avant-garde is simple (naturally): whatever makes sense unintentionally is poetry.

It is a truism that accident and surprise found by the roadside can be not only charming, but, to the creative intellect, extremely helpful.

However, mere accident or surprise is not, therefore, always poetry.   Is punning poetry?   Of course it isn’t.

Is everything poetry?

To those who write for Harriet, it apparently is, and it seems this is how Harriet will make their everlasting monument.

The public pays no attention to poetry; but no matter: everything is poetry, and therefore the public is paying attention to poetry, and Harriet’s endless ‘poetry news’ stream will be proof of this, if nothing else.

If Allen Ginsberg takes a dump, it is poetry.  Poetry is boundless—and great.  Isn’t that wonderful?

Since Harriet banned all comments on their blog, it seems they are determined to fill the world with poetry—or at least with a sizable stream of “poetry news.”

Here, for instance is one of Harriet’s recent “poetry news” items:

Sharpie Poet talks Newspaper Blackout

Austin Kleon, whose book Newspaper Blackout is at number 16 on the bestseller list this week, talks about his materials and methods on Words Pictures Humor :

Well, after doing a bit of research, I found out people have been finding poetry in the newspaper for over 250 years. The farthest back I can trace it is to a guy named Caleb Whitefoord, a wine merchant, writer, diplomat, and former next-door neighbor to Benjamin Franklin. In the 1760s, he’d read the newspaper across the columns, to come up with all kinds of funny juxtapositions, like, “On Tuesday both Houses of Convocation met : / Books shut, nothing done.” He’d read them aloud in the pub, and on occasion have them printed up as broadsheets. In the 1920s, the Dadaist Tristan Tzara cut up a newspaper, tossed it in a hat, and read the words he pulled out to make a poem. Then, in the early 1960s, Brion Gysin and William Burroughs take up the cut-up technique, and it just goes on and on from there…

I guess such long history shouldn’t be any big surprise: as Walt Whitman said, “The true poem is the daily paper.”

Memo to Harriet:

To call “funny juxtapositions” poetry is a pleasant stretch, for young children, perhaps, during a ‘found poem’ lesson, but for grownups to persist in believing that every “funny juxtaposition” is poetry, is, to say the very least, embarrassing.

Edgar Poe’s “The Raven” was published in a daily newspaper and it made Poe world-famous.  “The Raven” was not a found poem.  It was not an accident.

But soldier on, ye poets!

Funny juxtapositions will make for greatness yet!



  1. May 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    I like “found poems”–I think the sort of thing this Whitefoord fellow was doing is a hoot. I don’t even have a problem with calling it “poetry.”

    My problem is having entire faculties of tenured professors and endowed government grant winners who base their careers on this sort of thing–why does one person who randomly juxtaposes newspaper headlines and bits of advertising jargon from cookie packages get to be an esteemed “professional poet,” with a handsome, tax-payer subsidized salary, while another person doing the exact same thing is just a regular person with an odd hobby? Well, because the first person had the right friends.

    So poetry becomes merely a game of networking–those who have the right connections, who make the right impressions, get to be poets.

    • thomasbrady said,

      May 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      The true genius finds the ‘already-found-poem.’

  2. jaramad said,

    May 7, 2010 at 5:42 am

    I like your article, if we are all aware that we live in one world, if you read this arikel I am sure your knowledge of world news will be much improved and I think this article could serve as a guide all of us

    High recommendations for this article

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