Great news, the words of your poem are already out there, you just have to find them! A 'Found Poem' does exactly what it says on the tin: find words or phrases from elsewhere, rearrange and make them into your poem.
Wellbeing: this activity helps you to be curious about and connect with your surroundings, increases concentration and inspires creativity.
Connection is key in the story of the Pastons in Norwich. The city is where they made strategic allegiances with other gentry families and notable figures to socially advance the family. Today as a UNESCO City of Literature, it seems fitting that our tour guide is John Paston III, who collected a 'Grete Boke' of numerous texts. Our writing focus on this walk is all about the thrill of the hunt for words, inspired by a family who loved words, as Sir Robert Paston says to his wife Rebecca: “I gasp after your letters every day … your conversation by penn is the pleasantest thing in the world to mee”. Whirlpool, p. 343.
Finding Poems in Norwich in 3 steps
Resource: As you go on the Norwich walk, take a note of around 15 to 20 words or phrases that speak to you. These may be from the Paston information board at St Peter’s Church, Hungate (the starting point of the walk) or inscriptions in the Church. You may find some on the facsimile of the Paston letter hanging in the Maid’s Head Hotel entrance. Or maybe you’ll find words in the Cathedral, if you visit it. It might be that key words stand out from the audio tours. It could be later in the walk at the Castle, if you visit the Paston Treasure painting. It might just be from today’s shop notices and signs, a newspaper or billboard.
Preparation: Select some key words and phrases from those you have collected that seem particularly meaningful or interesting to you. To help with this, identify a theme or emotion that represents some or all of the words and phrases you have selected. Focus on individual words /phrases and think about how they flow and work together around this particular theme and message. Once you feel you have enough selected, read over your list. Add or remove words or re-use words as you wish.
Use these thoughts to spark your writing.
- Don't worry about the storyline when composing your list - it's not important!
- The poem you’re making can be short — just a few lines — or it can long.
- You may find it useful to write your words and phrases on slips of paper, so that you can lay them out and move them around until you are satisfied.
- Consider having key words on lines by themselves to emphasize them.
- Read aloud as you arrange the words. Test different line breaks based on the rhythm of the way you want the ideas to be expressed.
- On a different day use the same story extracts and reorder differently, see where they take you today.
- Or this time don’t add any words, only use the ones found (but you can re-use words).
- Or be artistic, merge your poem with photos of the original sites of your ‘found words’. Be crafty!
- Write a Found Poem from the fuller Norwich Paston stories on thisispaston
- Shape the words to the shape of an object or idea related to the poem’s content.
Inspiration from the letters
In addition, or instead of the walk, you might wish to dig deeper with Found Poems as a way to experience and connect to the letters.
1. Resource: Pick any one, or collection, of the Paston letters This Is Paston: Search the Paston Letters and Documents. You could do a character or place-name search to get a selection. Pick out key phrases or words that stand out for you.
2. Preparation: In the scenes the Pastons write about, imagine hearing the Pastons talk, what key words or phrases are stressed, repeated, echo your feelings or theme?
3. Use the key words or phrases that stand out to you to begin your writing.