Over the weekend, I attended a Found Poetry workshop at the Berlin Soup Festival. I had no idea what Found Poetry was, but I'm always delighted when I find a poem, so I figured it'd be fun to attend.
A small group of us gathered on the terrace of a gallery space, above the chaotic intersection at Kottbusser Tor. Poet Kim Morrissey explained that Found Poetry is written by lifting words from an existing narrative and rearranging them into a poem, which reflects the intention of the original author's work.
While I was disappointed that this process didn't involve a Dadaistic process using scissors and glue, it was lovely to play with someone else's work. Our source text was Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. It felt a little sacrilegious repurposing Isherwood's work, but the results of the group were beautiful and surprisingly diverse, given that we were all drawing from the same material.
The Isherwood passage selected by Morrissey describes the Berlin tenements in the early 1930s. My current work-in-progress swayed my thoughts away from the misery of Berlin's poor, and to the doom awaiting them. Isherwood's 'chalk-marked for the hopping game "Heaven and Earth"' was particularly foreboding. It wouldn't be long before the people of Berlin were marked for life and death.
Despite the grim subject matter and the group's tendency towards the macabre, we spent the afternoon laughing. Writing poetry demands such an extreme level of focus and precision, that I never thought interesting work would arise in a group context, especially with the distractions of a noisy street and an over-excited French bulldog. With the exception of a few Edward Gorey inspired dabbles, I'd never viewed writing poetry as fun. But as I left for the day and wandered into Berlin, not far from Isherwood's attic room at Hallesches Tor, I was filled with the kind of energy that comes from play. Next time writing about Berlin in the 1930s becomes too depressing, I'll pick up my copy of Isherwood's work and write a poem, sans scissors.