found poems

2 posts

Warming Up to Tarjei Vesaas’s Ice Palace

ice palace

On the back of Tarjei Vesaas’s book, The Ice Palace, is a blurb by Nova that reads, “Believable and haunting…this beautiful neo-prose poem is as sombre and Scandinavian as a Bergman film.”

I can’t vouch for the Bergman film bit (I think I’ve seen all of one), but I’m all in on the “haunting” and the “beautiful” and the “sombre” parts. As for “neo-prose poem,” I guess that is because it is a novel, not a prose poem, so the prefix gives Nova poetic license to call it such.

Shall we put it to the prose poem test? Here’s a paragraph describing the ice palace itself–a structure which is a collaboration between winter and a waterfall in Norway–to consider. Put your neo- goggles on and see what you think:

“The sun had suddenly disappeared. There was a ravine with steep sides; the sun would perhaps reach into it later, but now it was in ice-cold shadow. Unn looked down into an enchanted world of small pinnacles, gables, frosted domes, soft curves, and confused tracery. All of it was ice, and the water spurted between, building it up continually. Branches of the waterfall had been diverted and rushed into new channels, creating new forms. Everything shone. The sun had not yet come, but it shone ice-blue and green of itself, and deathly cold. The waterfall plunged into the middle of it as if diving into a black cellar. Up on the edge of the rock the water spread out in stripes, the color changing from black to green, from green to yellow and white, as the fall became wilder. A booming came from the cellar-hole where the water dashed itself into white foam against the stones on the bottom. Huge puffs of mist rose into the air.”

Such description could easily become a found poem of the neo-lyric variety, no? Heck with the 500-piece puzzle. Try your hand at a found poem using the above paragraph as an exercise.

Me? I’m off to work, but look forward to some of your efforts. And no, it won’t be graded. Make your found grade an “A” why don’t you? You’ll see that poetic license melts icy grading systems every time….

Haiku-like Hemingway


Many people don’t know that Ernest Hemingway enjoyed reading poetry and, before he became famous for his short stories, even attempted a few poems. Reading A Moveable Feast, I can see why. Poetry often hides in the work of good prose writers, and as I tried fashioning found poems from young Hemingway’s spare language, I discovered an almost Eastern simplicity to them:


Haiku-like Hemingway

Paris in winter,
clear and cold and lovely.
Our apartment, though,
warm and cheerful.
We burn boulets
molded, egg-shaped lumps
of coal dust.

Outside, accustomed
to bare trees against the sky,
I walk on fresh-washed gravel paths
through Luxembourg Gardens.
The clear, sharp wind.

Winter winds blow across
surfaces of the ponds
and the fountains
blow in the bright light.

The fireplace draws well,
warm and pleasant to work.
I bring mandarines,
roasted chestnuts
in paper packets, peel
and eat the small
tangerine-like oranges,
throwing skins
and spitting seeds
in the fire.

I am hungry
with the walking and the cold
and the working.
Hunger is good discipline.