Teaching Writing

Upcycled Words! – Found Poems: Prompts for Writing Outside

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.” —Jim Jarmusch

If you look around with the eyes of a poet, you’ll find poetry everywhere! Found Poems are poems made by piecing together words found in all sorts of places, from the ingredients list on the back of a cereal box, to an overheard conversation, to public signage in a park. 

In the videos below, you’ll learn more about Found Poetry from educators who are crafting poems using the signage around public parks and hiking trails and you’ll be prompted to do the same. 

Writing “Sparks”

Spark from Connecticut Writing Project– Go outside and write a Found-on-the-Trail Poem!

Content focus: Found Poetry writing
Age-level recommendations: intermediate learner, advanced learner
Time: 6:16

Educator Rich Novak walks on a trail in the woods and explains how Found Poetry is made when you take old text and turn it into new, poetic text. He calls this, Classic Found Poetry, poetry cobbled from words and phrases found on park kiosks, maps, and bulletin boards. He then shares his own version of Found Poetry that he calls, Found-on-the-Trail Poetry, which uses words and phrases gathered from outdoor ramblings while walking as well as field journaling. He shares a couple of his own poems as examples and prompts you to go outside and write one of your own!

Spark from Central Arizona Writing Project – Creating Found Poetry Using Public Signage

Content focus: Found Poetry
Age-level recommendations: All ages, good for intermediate writers
Time: Video length = 8:04

Kelly Hedberg and Jessica Early walk around a public park in Tempe, Arizona and point out the opportunities for poetry by using the words found on public signage.


More About Found Poetry

Below are related resources gathered to further support inquiry and exploration of this topic. If you have additional resources to recommend, please share them online via the hashtag #writeout

Found Poetry: A lesson plan from Facing History and Ourselves. Students compose poems using only words, phrases, or quotations from a text that they find meaningful.

Find Poetry in the Pages of a Newspaper and Find Original Poetry Hiding in the Pages of Your Paper by the New York Times

The Blackout Poem by Austin Kleon: Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of a trilogy of illustrated books about creativity in the digital age and posts a lot of resources on his website.

This post is part of the Poetry-powered Prompts for Writing Outside collection.

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This resource is available to support place-based writing outside anytime of year and comes with related resources and age-level recommendations. Originally developed for Write Out (writeout.nwp.org).
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