Found Poetry and Slam Poetry: Paper Bound and Freed


There is a poem in my head.

I have a poem running

through my head,

and if I don’t write it down I am going to lose it,

if I don’t set it free

and release it

into the world, then forever will I be haunted by the poem

that I never wrote,

that never was, that was born

and died from suffocation in my head.

So I give it form,

I take my tool,

my pencil,

my magic wand that creates

something in nothing,

and I touch it to my page

and give the poem

form, give it life,

let it breathe,

and be.

But now…

It’s chained,

chained to the page, locked in paper and lead,

left flat and imprisoned, at the mercy

of the reader as to whether it has form,

locked inside two dimensions

and is left to be how it can’t be,

where it can’t live as itself,

and sculpt the words that create it;


chained to the page,

the reader sculpts the words, makes them be

what they’re not,

what they never were

or meant to be. And no poem,

deserves that fate, not even if it’s a night light

and a light night, it doesn’t deserve

not to live,

not to be. And I have to set it

free, to give it my words

and be,

to sculpt itself,

to take control of my body and my words

like it did when it coursed hot and new

through my pencil and was preserved

so that I could bring it to be,

so it can live in the air,

turn into something

that transcends all reality

and is, now,

it’s not me who’s speaking, it’s the poem,

the poem that named itself and formed itself

in the same breath of being, of existence.

And it breathes,

and it is,

released and untethered, unrestrained…

and it never was the poem that never was;

it is.

 I’m pretty sure you can tell here, but this poem was meant to be a slam poem. When I wrote it, I’d been thinking of found poetry–also called form poetry–which is bound (hee-hee) to the page.  When you read a found poem aloud, some of the magic goes out of it. Half of a found poem is what’s on the page, in the eye of the reader. You can’t write down a slam poem and publish it; some of the magic goes out of it, too, because the whole point of a slam poem is the delivery, the emotion, the way the words are said and the words themselves. Jokes made before the mic won’t have the same puniness as they did. Both are unique, and both are chained to the medium they were intended to be shared with.

Then it struck me how found poetry was trapped. If it couldn’t be read, it was frozen on the page, mute, flat, trapped. This was so striking to me that I started to rave about it, writing a poem that I wanted to be free. Unlike found poetry, the poem above can be read. It can shape itself, not be shaped by the reader. It can be on the page, too, if it wanted to. Few people realize that poetry and literature are alive and subjective. They don’t read the same way twice, since your experiences change and your understanding is altered.

Most of the excitement of this poem was how it came. Really, truly good slam poetry, full of emotion and punch, comes to me out of the blue, which it hasn’t for a long while. I can be minding my own business when I start to talk to myself…and I find the first lines of a poem. Then it’s a race to h-e double sticks in a Ferrari to finish what I’m doing, find a piece of paper and a pencil, twirl the wand and turn the taps on creativity. It’s electrifying and draining, and it leaves me exhausted like a more powerful being lived in me for a moment, used me, and left. In a way, it did.

Stick season, with its snow flurries of November, and my National Novel Writing Month/NaNoWriMo novel, with the salty sweet breath of sea air, should offer inspiration. The glue of creativeness, as I’ve called it before, is getting unstuck.



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