Chris Jenkins on the Search for Found Poetry

From The Front Page is a new venture by poet and health researcher Chris Jenkins, looking at found poems, but with a difference… finding them in contents pages and indexes. In poetry collections, these are just simple lists of titles, often overlooked​. But amidst the constituents and divisions, perhaps there is more poetry to be found that we are missing…

A found poem is “a prose text or texts reshaped by a poet into quasi-metrical lines” (Source: Poetry Foundation). It is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases and/or whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry by making small changes in spacing and lines, by adding or deleting text, or just lifting out of context verbatim, thus imparting new meaning.

We speak to Jenkins about his interest in the poetry hidden in the contents, and how to look for your own found poems…

“The idea for From the Front Page came during a freezing April in Donegal. I was reading Philip Larkin’s Selected Poems, and got to that point after thirty minutes when my mind started to slow. Struggling to concentrate on the metaphor and subtly of the verse, I started absently flicking through the contents page. I started to notice how some of the titles followed after each other. For example, Spring. Deceptions. I remember, I remember. Absences. Something about this ordering struck me. Perhaps it was the inexplicably cold April outside my window, the promise of a Spring that hadn’t arrived, or something in the emptiness and temperance of Spring even in the middle of renewal. Perhaps it was about how memory and changing seasons sometimes seem intimately connected.

“I started to look in other titles and was amazed at what you can find. In a borrowed Owen Sheers book, I found the lines, When You Died. Like Sowing Seed. I sometimes wish that we had fought. Again, such unintentional (we assume) words in combination. Slow death, but with it rebirth, and that confusing feeling in grief, not of reconciliation, but of pure raw emotion and anger; the confusing interplay between communication and someone passing. I kept looking, and was fascinated by what you see with a little bit of imagination and flexibility, and how words can flow together forming fascinating, sometimes profound, sometimes comical poetry. With a little bit of curiosity, and a love for words, it’s incredible what you can find.”

++++++++++The Air
++++++++++The Eye
++++++++++A Pocket Horizon

++++++++++From 40 Sonnets by Don Paterson (submitted by Savannah Dodd)

“With that, Poetry NI kindly agreed to publish a monthly newsletter of poetry found on these front pages. Our first release was last month, and the response was incredible.  From words found by Lesley Martin in A Hundred Doors by Michael Longley with their melancholy and closure, to Eleanor Hooker’s The Shadow Owner’s Companion submitted by Stephanie Conn, so many great entries came in. People interpreted their brief with individualistic flexibility, some choosing to takes the lines from the contents in direct order, other reordering the words and using the contents as a base, others taking from titles outside of poetry such The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams, submitted by Kimmy Alan.  All these approaches brought together our first issue, and I hope that it can be the first of many.”

The first edition of From The Front Page is available to download for free from Poetry NI. It is open to submissions from anyone, on any topic. The next edition will be released at the end of March 2017. To submit, simply fill in the webform on their page.

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