Slice of Life: A Found Poem


I was really stuck for an idea of what to write about today, so I visited the “Writing Prompts” page on the Poets & Writers website. There are prompts for creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. This poetry prompt appealed to me:

Begin at the End 
posted 2.23.16

“If you’re having trouble starting a poem, begin at the end. Take a single collection of poems and make a list of the last two words from each poem. Then write your own poem using only these words. Be vigilant at first utilizing just the vocabulary from the list. After a couple of drafts, stray from the limited words to help bring the poem to its full realization.”

Inspired by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s challenge to write a poem about small object, I’ve been rereading and studying Valerie Worth’s All the Small Poems and Fourteen More, so I turned to the first set of small poems for my list of words. Here they are:

among friends
she stops
like zinnias
to rest
and purr
worth something
and stay
is managed
set stone
brown grasshopper
of mice
loose skin
to us
slithering gold
poor clock
to keep
passing here
is cooked
of gold
find it
the beehive
for sleep
fences forever
whispers alone

Here is my first draft. The words and letters in bold were not on the original list.

She stops
among friends,
like zinnias
of gold,
fences set in stone,
and brown grasshoppers,
to sleep
and purr
and dream
of cooked mice…

To us, it is
worth something
not to be managed
by the clock;
to keep
passing here alone
hearing whispers,
find it,
the beehive,
slithering gold,
and stay
for rest.

This was a fun exercise, despite the fact I have three unused words: poor, loose, and skin. Maybe I can work those into my next draft. The second stanza makes me happy because it reminds me of “The Lake Isle of Inisfree,” by William Butler Yeats, one of my all-time favorite poems.

I’d like to try this with students. It would be a great way to build vocabulary and would also help reinforce grammar skills like subject-verb agreement, tense, and more. Maybe I’ll save it for National Poetry Month.

 Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

6 thoughts on “Slice of Life: A Found Poem

  1. Love this, especially the phrase – “…worth something not to be measured by the clock…” Valerie Worth’s book is a treasure. I had a student who loved the collection so much that I believe she reported it lost and paid for it just so she could keep it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, that last stanza with its no clock and slithering gold. I will definitely be trying this one out myself and with students. Love!


  3. Great idea for April and thank you for outlining it so clearly. I’m think of this on several different levels with students… They could use the words from their own or peers’ poems. Perhaps it will encourage students to stay strong to the last word in their writing. It is also a way to connect poems. As you explained the process, I found myself visualizing a ring (the found poem) with my favorite poems attached to it by their final words. I think I will try this for my writing today and post tomorrow!


  4. Your poem is terrific. I love that you played around with the format and are now thinking of having students try their hands at it during poetry month.


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