I’ve been working with found texts recently, creating what I’ve termed ‘composite fictions’ (found poem collages). This involves plundering a range of sources until I come up with something that works. Advertising creative, John Hegarty, says it’s not possible to be original: ‘Ideas borrow, blend, subvert, develop, and bounce off other ideas’. Therefore, to claim your work is original is arrogant. He prefers the word ‘fresh’.
‘when reaching for freshness ask yourself these questions:
Does this piece of creative work stop you?
Would you notice it straight away?
Does it awaken your interest in the subject …?
Does it move you to action?’
I think these questions are useful for interrogating both the sources I use and the found poems that come from them.
For me, the writing comes first, so when I’m working with found texts, I’m scanning for words/ phrases/ lines that spark a reaction. I don’t have any idea at this stage where the poem is, what it will say, how it will say it, but I have that initial phrase and that’s enough. I can’t predict where I’ll find what I’m looking for. I mean, I’ll go to a charity shop and buy a handful of books that in some way look promising, or I’ll scan a newspaper or a magazine and find an article that looks like it’s got potential. However, it’s not until I sit down to work with these sources that I know if they’re of value to me or not. Also, I’ve noticed that if I try to force it by settling on a phrase that’s ‘just good enough’ (because I can’t find anything that really fires my imagination) the process of creating the found poem becomes too conscious and invariably generates a poem I’m not happy with.
Of all Hegarty’s questions (above) the one that really hits home for me is ‘Does it move you to action?’. At the moment, ‘action’ involves a lot of cutting up, rearranging, and gluing down. In fact, today I treated myself to a new pair of scissors! The source texts move me to action; I physically cut them up and paste them down in the order that creates new meaning. However, I think it’s valid to ask myself if my finished poem has the same effect. Does it move me to action? As long as the answer is yes, I’ll keep exploring and creating.
Hegarty on Creativity: There Are No Rules by John Hegarty (Thames and Hudson, 2014)