Spice up your writing with ‘upgraded’ found poetry (creative writing exercise)


Creating and being creative are certainly two conditions similar, but not the same. Creating is often related to producing something new, innovative, while being creative is often referred to being able to observe two, three or more unrelated objects and connect them in a new way, thus eventually producing something new.

So today’s exercise is while having a broader writing prompt, also an opportunity to practice being creative, where poetry can be a wonderful tool to use.

For example, pick your three favorite poems, from three different authors – the best is if the poems are thematically different (but doesn’t have to be) and ask yourself, what do they have in common? The more challenging this is, the more creative you’ll have to be with your writing and create  a new poem. But instead of just creating found poem, go a step further: use these three poems just as a starting canvas for your new writing where you will try to revive the initial feelings that made you love those poems in the first place. Find that image in your mind that emulates the experience you had while reading those poems and portrait that image in your new poem.You can use some stanzas in your writing or you can just refer to those poems as a starting point – it’s up to you.

I’ve chosen excerpts from the following that are quite dark, sensual and haunting – perfect for the Halloween warm-up 😉

This Is A Photograph Of Me by Margaret Atwood

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
you will see me.) 

There Are Intersections… by Joyce Mansour

There are intersections where the night

The joy jumps on the back

Of the passerby

Such the lonely dawn in the acid wind

The decapitated dies standing up


Body to body in the mud

Teeming furnace

The worms

Whips with triple straps

Caress the tip of the roots

Of flesh

Meat of sacrifice

Gem of the putrefaction

With no burden other than its arms

Tied elbow to elbow


Bundles of blood on the promised land

Thunderbird Motel by Kelly Boyker

There is no place to drown here, so instead
we take turns suffocating each other with pillows
going just a little longer each time.
I am already rehearsing my speech to the manager,
already placing the ice cubes in my mouth
hoping they melt before the maid wheels her cart into our room.

 My ‘upgraded’ found poem:

There is no place to drown here,

yet if you do leave a lonely dawn to live

melting ice cubes will form a lake,

with muddy intersections

where worms eat the roots

of the acid wind with joy.

The center of the picture,

photograph carved in the land halfway up of
a gentle

is the blooded pillow I dived in, absorbing my mute speech.

Body to body

elbow to elbow

awaken city of your sensual thoughts

culminates in this subsided, heavy roar of

broken eternity –

resistance takes place,

like gem of the putrefaction,

distortion of time

in the tied flesh of the watery space.

This is a wonderful exercise as it teaches you to connect things in different relations and helps you evoke that emotional response you need to fuel your creative writing. I was always somehow amazed with the topics of loneliness, isolation, mysterious and esoteric, always being different and not falling into patterns of societal stereotypes (which partially explains my selection of poems). And it is one of my driving creative forces – exploring and going beyond the given boundaries and prejudices.

I simply love this exercise as it helps you literally to rewire the typical thinking of your brain and produce interesting moments in your creative writing. It’s super easy, doable anywhere you like it, and can keep you being proactive with your writing when you lack ideas or inspiration.

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