Monday, September 26, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Found Poem by John Daniel

Found Poem

I found a poem.

I will tell you how I found it.
I was walking along the beach
when I saw a stone with a bump
I brought it home and stood it on the mantelpiece
where it immediately turned into
a Work of Art.

If I can find a Work of Art on the beach I thought
I can find poems on fire extinguishers, in recipe books,
insurance policies, telephone directories,
the index to The Oxford Book of English Verse,
my grandfather's diary.

I read out the Smiths, A.J.
from the London telephone directory
and was attacked by a lady in the Lamb and Flag
screaming This isn't poetry!

I found a poem
by Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher of Utilitarianism
The Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number
who had written a will stating that he was to be wheeled out
at university committee meetings
and whose head had just fallen off.

This was the end of the Found Poem.
There is only so much you can do with a headless Utilitarian,
wills and insurance policies.
I returned the poem to its beach
laying it carefully among 10,000 others
where it immediately forgot it was a Work of Art
and changed back into a pebble.

Sometimes I go for a walk
listening to the great pebble-polisher
dragging the poems off the earth
hurling them forward and back
the tug-of-war between the moon and the beach.

And sometimes I pick
up an odd-shaped pebble
but I never take it back to the mantelpiece.
That would be ecologically irresponsible.
Instead I lie hearing the rumble
of unfound poems
and the artless crash of the waves
on the beach.

John Daniel isn't a Perth poet, he lives in England, but I met him in Perth where he was a guest at the WA Poetry Festival. Quite a find, I thought. I hadn't known his work at all. I invested in two of his books - Pushing 100, and Missing the Boat - which was published by Etruscan Books in 2007. Found Poem is in Missing the Boat. His work is often hilarious, always thoughtful, wistful, retro, charming, and sometimes just a bit nuts. Love it!

If you want to read the other Tuesday Poems click on the quill icon up on the right.


  1. Jennifer, I love the humour, but also the wryness and sense of depth beneath the surface of the poem.

    But is there a typo in the second line of the last stanza? Should it be: "up an odd-shaped pebble" not "and"?

  2. I like everything about this poem, the wonderful understated humour is just perfect :)