Day 47: The Vandal’s Verse

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February 16, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

I like good graffiti.  Don’t get me wrong, not all graffiti is good graffiti, and there’s a wide gap between the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to street art, but when it’s good, it can be oh, so good.  Graffiti exists at the intersection of expression and freedom – exposing the artist’s message to the world in a display meant to shake up passers by.  Good graffiti is a thing of wonder and awe, and might even make you think a little.  I should be clear, though, that my definition of graffiti is by no means limited to spray-painted illustration.  As I see it, graffiti could be almost anything – drawings, doodles, math equations, stories, poetry and even people – anything that turns a public space into an unintentional theater for expression.  Today’s project knows just what I’m talking about, and is doing its part in celebrating poetry off the page.

The Found Poetry Project is a chronicle of poetry found outside of libraries and classrooms, and instead on street corners and subway cars – where some of the most powerful verse thrives (before the authorities expunge expression at the end of a pressure hose).

In short, found poetry is the art of excerpting words and phrases from any written source and combining them in new ways to form a poem. In our journal’s one-year history, we’ve seen poems created from Wikipedia, Charles Manson’s court testimony, lecture notes, AOL search histories, titles of paintings, guestbooks and comic strip dialogues — just to name a few.

The Found Poetry Review is a quarterly online poetry journal celebrating the poetry in the existing and the everyday. We publish found poetry, centos, erasure poems and other forms that incorporate elements of existing texts.

Beyond being an ongoing archive of found poetry, this project aims to help facilitate the escape of poetry from its traditional cage.  April is National Poetry Month and the Found Poetry Project aims to make it one to notice by providing 250 Found Poetry Kits, including all the tools necessary for an artist to contribute his or her verse to the public sphere.  Across the country, poets will take to the streets and turn their creativity upon unsuspecting pedestrians such as you and I.

Backing this project will likely make you an accomplice to vandalism of one form or another, but there’s every indication that it’ll vandalism you can be proud of.  Pledging will get you a found poetry kit of your own, or even a poem commissioned in your honor, to be scrawled on the concrete for all to see.  Take your poetry off the page and share it with the world with one of these kits by pledging before March 4.


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