Thursday 14 March 2019

Found Art/Found Poetry

Found art is a type of art that uses ordinary objects in the same way that more deliberately created art is treated. The Tate Gallery has a fantastic explanation of found art objects, including many examples of found art.

The idea is that all objects can be considered art, especially if they are put in a context that makes them art. When people collect sea glass, for example, or display a piece of driftwood they like, they are creating found art objects. A toddler's scribbles framed and mounted in a nursery, pretty buttons arranged in a row on a shelf, or an antique hoe put in the backyard for display, all are examples of found art. Other artists alter the found art objects, such as using them as parts of a larger work.

I have created a work using found objects, an acorn and a paintbrush. I don't consider the photograph to be part of the art, by the way, though I could have if I intended to frame the photo and display that.

V. Zenari. Acorn and Paintbrush

I like the balancing trick, and I like the lighting around the acorn (shadows below the brush and on most of the acorn).

People's homes are full of found objects treated as art. People may be more sceptical of found art when it put in an art museum with a person's name and a title, as though that person shaped that object rather than found it in a flea market or even lying in a garbage heap. Dada artists often did this kind of thing: Marcel Duchamp's Fountain (an unmounted urinal) is a good example.

Found poetry is a subset of found art. It is poetry created by words created for some other purpose than poetry.  To see some examples of found poetry, visit The Academy of American Poets website or
this discussion from The Guardian.

One can format or edit a text in its entirety, or use pieces of different texts to make a collage of some sort. Verbatim is an online magazine that accepts only found poetry.

For me, I worry about copyright. But if the original is in the public domain (for example, is really old), or if you created or transcribed somehow the original words yourself, I don't see any trouble with reusing texts created from other texts.

Below is a found poem of mine that uses word from Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in Feburary 1862. 


Be Jubilant

Since the truth is tramping on our hearts
Let us die transfigured in my bosom
like the lilies in the evening
read the glory of their beauty in the dim
My soul answers holy the fiery gospel
at the heels of love’s terrible free sword.
Be swift, circle the camp where the lamps flare
Build an altar to us where lightning fires and
sifts the burnished steel of affection’s battle

Never retreat

Hymn to us, fateful coming
with the sentence of grace

Answer my writ

Crush me


I wrote another found poem using the simple method that Verbatim suggests: take a text not intended to be a poem and format it like a poem by adding line breaks. I used an an old template for a corset advertisement in the Dry Goods Book, a marketing manual the Emergence of American Advertising 1850-1920 digital collection at Duke University.

The Way a Corset Is Made

The way a corset is made
has everything to do with
its comfort, appearance, 
wear. The ——
corset is made of
good materials and is
flexible. That’s the
of success. It will adapt itself to
any form, as if the
wearer were
into it. It couldn’t fit
better. The flexibility makes it fit
perfectly. It makes it
comfortable. It makes it
economical. The price is $ ——.

There is no
corset made which will give
the same amount of
satisfaction, wear, and
for the