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Thursday Prompt #5: Erasures

June 3, 2010

"Macro of red HB pencil peeking through a book" by Horia Varlan on Flickr

Angie Werren brings us this Thursday’s prompt, in which she asks us to experiment with found poetry:

“I am fascinated with found poetry, which to my mind is best described by the definition given on

A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found,
with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

My fascination lies in my belief that found poems tend to write themselves, that the words inherent in the original texts hold a meaning that is just waiting to be released. In my explorations of found poetry, I often feel as if I have little control over the poem that is revealed. I love playing with unexpected sources like the writings of Charles Darwin, uncovering the unexpected in something that seems so scientific on its surface. My favorite method is erasing — removing words at random in a text, then forming the poem from the words left behind exactly as they are. (I do sometimes tinker with pronouns and line breaks, just to give some coherence to the piece.)

Erasures by Wave Poetry is a wonderful place to try this technique.

So — this week’s prompt is an experiment. Does the found poem really find itself when released from its original meaning, or does the poet’s hand have more of an influence?  I propose that we each erase the same text  — Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Miller Richardson — at Erasures and see what differences we can create.  I chose the text as randomly as possible by picking one with the most words to erase. Don’t feel that you have to stick to the strict definition of found poetry outlined above — do what feels right to you. It is your poem, after all.  (Do be sure to give credit to the original source.)

Have fun with this!  If you are new to Erasures, play around a bit. If you set up an account (click “Login” after “Make an Erasure”) you will be able to save your erased text. This makes it a lot easier to write the poem later because it doesn’t allow you to copy and paste. And it’s so much fun, you’ll want to go back and play some more!

If you are new to found poetry, here are some other places you can check out:

So — play around with this for awhile, then come back next Wednesday to post your final piece.  Let’s see where this experiment takes us!”

  1. June 3, 2010 12:58 pm

    This was fun! I managed to find my erasure poem in the text on the first try.


  2. June 3, 2010 1:13 pm

    Wow, a new form for me. The Erasures website is so user-friendly, I did two, including the challenge. Will come back and post link on Wednesday. THANKS!

    Amy, AKA Sharp Little Pencil

  3. angie permalink
    June 3, 2010 3:50 pm

    so glad you guys like it — isn’t it fun??
    can’t wait to read them!

  4. June 4, 2010 3:44 pm

    This is so cool! What a time suck….ha!

    • angie permalink
      June 4, 2010 6:16 pm

      be afraid, Brenda! very, very afraid…

      • June 8, 2010 8:30 am

        Mwaa ha ha! I constructed a piece, which I will post tomorrow. It’s interesting, and I don’t know that I “get” it. But you know poetry…maybe someone else will. 🙂

        This was fun Angie, I’ll do some more playing. Thanks for the prompt.

  5. June 5, 2010 2:42 am

    I enjoyed writing for this.

    Will post on Wednesday.

  6. June 7, 2010 8:11 am

    I was curious to try this technique to “derive” a poem from other sources rather than create a poem from scratch. I wasn’t sure how I would enjoy this device-driven approach, because I find “constructing” poems based on traditional poetic forms to be restrictive and somewhat unfulfilling — and I originally perceived this suggestion Angie put forth as similar in nature. It is also quite the opposite of my normal stream-of-consciousness-as-first-draft approach to writing a poem.

    All that said, this approach proved very interesting, and challenged me in ways I had not experienced before — so thank you Angie for making this new experience available to me. I will likely not embrace found poetry with the enthusiasm you do, but this was enjoyable…

    …rob 😉

  7. angie permalink
    June 7, 2010 11:54 am

    thanks for giving it a go, Rob!
    I can’t wait to read it!


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