Thursday, June 10, 2010

Found Poems

Annie Dillard's book Mornings Like This, is a collection of "found" poetry. She took letters to the editor, newspapers, nature journals, almanacs, diaries, grammar books, even the apocrypha, and turned it into poetry. She calls it "editing at its extreme." I love the fact that she could read something as simple as a letter to the editor and see poetry. Here are some of my favorites:

We are not interested in tree limbs
Weighted with Spanish moss.
What we want to know is
Why arms go limp.

Is it the pain of blocking
Too many hooks? Is it the aching
That comes from throwing
Too many punches too soon?

We want facts, not French phrases.

--A letter to Sports Illustrated
by James P. Lewandowski, Toledo, Ohio. February 18, 1974


I Am Trying to Get at Something Utterly Heartbroken

-- V. van Gogh, letters, 1873 - 1890, ed. by l. Stone, translated by Johanna van Gogh


At the end of the road is a small cottage,
And over it all the blue sky.
I am trying to get at something utterly heartbroken.

The flying birds, the smoking chimneys,
And that figure loitering below in the yard --
If we do not learn from this, then from what shall we learn?

The miners go home in the white snow at twilight.
These people are quite black. Their houses are small.
The time for making dark studies is short.

A patch of brown heath through which a white
Path leads, and sky just delicately tinged,
Yet somewhat passionately brushed.
We who try our best to live, why do we not live more?


The branches of poplars and willows rigid like wire.
It may be true that there is no God here,
But there must be one not far off.

A studio with a cradle, a baby's high chair.
Those colors which have no name
Are the real foundation of everything.

What I want is more beautiful huts far away on the heath.
If we are tired, isn't it then because
We have already walked a long way?

The cart with the white horse brings
A wounded man home from the mines.
Bistre and bitumen, well applied,
Make the colouring ripe and mellow and generous.


A ploughed field with clods of violet earth;
Over all a yellow sky with a yellow sun.
So there is every moment something that moves one intensely.

A bluish-grey line of trees with a few roofs.
I simply could not restrain myself or keep
My hands off it or allow myself to rest.

A mother with her child, in the shadow
Of a large tree against the dune.
To say how many green-greys there are is impossible.

I love so much, so very much, the effect
Of yellow leaves against green trunks.
This is not a thing that I have sought,
But it has come across my path and I have seized it.

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