Found poems

Found poems are unintentional poems that are ‘uttered’ in the course of everyday life by a person or event. They are captured into poetic form by someone else who ‘hears’ or ‘sees’ a poem where no poem was intended.

They create an amazing dynamic and prompt all sorts of questions, like:
‘Who is actually the poet?’
‘Would the poem have existed had it not been appropriated and interpreted by someone else?’
‘Is it not impertinent to turn someone’s words or actions into a poem?
‘Do you not need permission to do this?’

There are no guidelines and no answers beyond the fact that the poems are ‘found’.

One can simply say, that there are poems everywhere, blown in the wind, pinned to people’s lapels, caught on the thorns of rose bushes, outlined by the posture of a lonely woman in a café. All of them want to be properly seen and given life, by whoever notices them, by whoever finds them.


Found poem: Was that poetry?
Zimbabwe Book Fair, Harare 2000
Charlie (Former Rhodesian Light Infantry soldier)
Response to a question posed by Patricia Schonstein

Well, I was sitting over there, just now, and this woman starts talking about some lover that’s left her. So I look across and see, man, she’s lekker, and why would anyone want to leave her?

So I think about maybe I should go up to her and tune her a little something, but not sure what to say.

And then this song comes on. Lola. I heard that for the first time at the Coq d’Or and just took it with me to the bush, during the war. Every time I went out there, when we made contacts, it would just play in my mind. I’d be thinking about this Lola chick, mmmmet-her-in-a-house-down-in-old-Soho-where-they-drink-champagne-and-it-tastes-just-like-cherry-cola. Meantime there wasn’t a chick in sight, of course, just ous and all our war shit.

Is that what you’re asking me? I don’t know anything about poetry. But maybe that was poetry – not going up to her and saying something, not getting her a drink. Instead still stoking up on that Lola memory. Hey-Lola-hey-hey-Lola.


The song, Lola, with its provocative theme of transvestism, was released in 1970 by the British rock group, The Kinks.

Automat by Edward Hopper 1927. Des Moines Art Centre

Found poem: Was that poetry? is included in Africa! My Africa! an anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein, sold to raise funds for Seed Readers.

Seed Readers is a project that will produce story books based on principles of peace, non-violence, non-racism and care of the earth. They will seed an understanding of our true role as custodians of the earth and oceans. They will inspire children to live ethically and in a sustainable manner.

Please email to place your order
R295 plus R55 postage & packaging.

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