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How to Write 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
Slow
Weak Shoulders

Bruce Lansky

Don't Stop At This Restaurant

Next Exit
Taco Bell
Food
Gas

Bruce Lansky

To help your students find some poems like these, suggest that they take a pencil and notebook with them next time they go on a long car ride. Have them write down as many road signs as they can. Then suggest that they pick out only those road signs that they 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 based on a mythical walk down the street in Miles of Smiles. 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, ask your students to write down advertising headlines from billboards and then mix and match them until they have been reduced to nonsense. Have them follow the rhyme pattern used above (ABCB) as well as the rhythm pattern, which sounds like this:

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

Comment: The above rhythm pattern is a tad uneven. Ideally, the rhythm of each line should be similar to the rhythm of the first line.

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, suggest that your students 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, it might help if they 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 your students get into "finding" poems, tell them to be on the lookout full time. They'll be able to find funny poems on restaurant menus, ice cream parlors (see Jack Prelutsky's poem, "Bleezer's Ice Cream," in Bad Case of the Giggles), etc.

I wish your students happy hunting.

Bruce Lansky

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