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.
Examples of found poems can be seen in the work of Blaise Cendrars, David Antin, and Charles Reznikoff. In his book Testimony, Reznikoff created poetry from law reports, such as this excerpt:
Amelia was just fourteen and out of the orphan asylum;
at her first job--in the bindery, and yes sir, yes ma'am,
oh, so anxious to please. She stood at the table,
her blond hair hanging about her shoulders,
"knocking up" for Mary and Sadie, the stichers
("knocking up" is counting books and stacking them in piles to be taken away).
Excerpted from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5780 accessed 5/22/08.
The Wikipedia entry for 'found poem' agrees with the description given above.
According to Wikipedia, The first major example of the extended use of found
poetry is Isidore Ducasse's Poesies. Also according to Wikipedia, Isidore
Ducasse is the pen name of one Comte de Lautreamont. The Wikipedia entry contains
an interesting bit about his influence on the early Surrealist writers.
I expanded the notion of found poetry for a prose poem I wrote. The poem came to
me as I watched an episode of 'The Simpsons.' I don't have a title for this poem.
My grandfather usually sleeps at
Mass. Afterwards, when he talks to
the priest, he imagines doves descending
on the priest and carrying him off
peacefully. Then my grandfather wants
to take us for ice cream.
Except for the ice cream, this was a scene in a Simpson's episode.
Grandpa Simpson daydreamed while Reverend Lovejoy talked to him.
In his daydream, four doves quietly came and grabbed onto
Lovejoy's clothes and carried him away while he continued to talk
as though nothing had happened.
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