I love “found poetry” for the unexpected connections it forces the poet to make. When I occasionally attempt to craft such offerings myself, I lean heavily on the variation of the genre pioneered by Annie Dillard in her beautiful, droll, and surprising collection of found poems Mornings Like This. The basic idea is that one selects a source text (the more obscure or unexpected the better) from which to selectively cull and rearrange phrases to create an altogether new piece that—assembled like Frankenstein’s monster from cast-off parts—takes on an unexpected life and meaning of its own. On a technical note, punctuation is entirely malleable.
The City Our Eyes Cannot See
(From the Washington DC Official Visitors Guide, Fall/Winter 2014-2015)
Under the white dome, senators (one born in each year) meet to shape the
black granite walls and the beautiful cherry trees. Across the street, where
President Lincoln breathed his last breath, you’ll find yourself dreamily
following him, mesmerized by his tales of snow-lovers who have died in battle:
We are in the heart of one wounded soldier, surrounded by quiet woods and
gardens. And if the bells chime, you can see the stars even during the day.
When the sun goes down, the singing and the silence will lead you to uncover
hidden secrets that only locals know: outposts to the north, a moonlight glide across
the ice, gilded mirrors, Italian marble fireplaces and crystal chandeliers, private nooks
and cozy corner tables, a waterfall, and plenty of open space. There are more than thirty
two secret doors that whisper home. But don’t be fooled. The ghosts of Christmas past
would agree: Doors close quickly and can separate you from your party and the dream
Doug participated in the early work of Charlie Peacock’s Art House Foundation, an organization dedicated to a shared exploration of faith and the arts. In the decades since, he has worked as an author, song lyricist, scriptwriter, and video director. He has penned more than 350 lyrics recorded by a variety of artists including Switchfoot, Kenny Rogers, Sanctus Real, and Jason Gray. His newest book is Every Moment Holy (Rabbit Room Press). His other works include The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog (illustrated by Zach Franzen), The Wishes of the Fish King (illustrated by Jamin Still), Subjects with Objects (with Jonathan Richter), and Stories We Shared: A Family Book Journal (with Jamin Still).