How to Write a Funny Found Poem
by Bruce Lansky

What fun it is to "find" a poem. I’m not referring to a poem that you can find in a book or on a tombstone; I’m referring to a poem whose pieces you find while driving in a car, watching TV, or choosing a flavor at Baskin-Robbins.

For example, if you go for a ride in your car, you might find some road signs that you can rearrange to tell a little story. Here are two I found on a recent trip.

    Where’s the Hospital Zone When You Need It?

    Men Working
    Weak Shoulders

    © Bruce Lansky

    Don’t Stop At This Restaurant

    Next Exit
    Taco Bell

    © Bruce Lansky

To find poems like these, take a pencil and notebook with you next time you go on a long car ride. Write down as many road signs as you can. Then pick out only the road signs you can use to tell a story of some sort. Needless to say, to have the story make sense, the road signs have to be arranged in exactly the right order.

There’s a fractured found poem in Miles of Smiles based on a mythical walk down the street. The anonymous author comes upon a billboard that had been ravaged by a storm and left in tatters. As a result, the advertising headlines are no longer exactly as the advertisers intended. Here are just a few lines from this classic:

    Smoke Coca-Cola cigarettes,
    chew Wrigley’s spearmint beer,
    Ken-L-Ration dog food
    makes your wife’s complexion clear.

To write a poem like this, write down slogans from billboards and then mix and match them until they have been reduced to nonsense. Follow the rhyme pattern used above (ABCB) as well as this rhythm pattern:

    da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (A)
    da DUM da DUM da DUM (B)
    da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (C)
    da DUM da DUM da DUM (B)

Of course, it’s possible to fracture a TV news broadcast, too. Here’s a poem I wrote based on that premise; it’s published in If Pigs Could Fly….

    Out of Control

    "The president will come to town…"
    "The price of beans is coming down…"

    "I’ll love you till the end of time…"
    "But shooting ducks should be a crime…"

    "We’ve never had a better sale…"
    "We’ll have to break them out of jail…"

    "The Pope arrived to lead the prayers…"
    "The Dallas Cowboys beat the Bears…"

    "The temperature is three below…"
    "These vitamins will help you grow…"

    What’s going on? Well, bless my soul!
    Baby’s got the remote control.

    © 2000 by Bruce Lansky reprinted from If Pigs Could Fly… with permission of Meadowbrook Press

To write a poem like this, watch the news on TV (or listen to the news on the radio) and write down the most interesting news tidbits. Then mix and match them.

To make it simple, use my AABB rhyme pattern and the rhythm pattern shown below.

    da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (A)
    da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (A)

Once you get into "finding" poems, be on the lookout full time. You’ll be able to find funny poems on restaurant menus, ice cream parlors (see Jack Prelutsky’s poem, "Bleezer’s Ice Cream," in A Bad Case of the Giggles)

Happy hunting!


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