When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.
Madeline L’Engle in Walking on Water
I love the art of found poetry.
I think the infatuation began when I discovered that I could write in books. The daughter of a librarian, I learned early on, that books were sacred, and a little bit magical. I remember being taught how to turn a page carefully so as not to crunch or crumble the page. Books were to be enjoyed, but they were to be handled tenderly and with reverence. No mussing them up. Certainly, no writing in them. That shifted in college when a literature professor insisted that we write in our text books. I discovered that I could underline passages and write notes in the margins. It was self defense really. With so much information flying at me, writing notes on notebook paper wasn’t enough. I needed the context of writing in my book as I was learning and making connections. To retain information, I needed the kinesthetic movement of writing and using color. I love this stanza from the poem Marginalia by Billy Collins
“We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.”
A door opened when I discovered that I could have a brief conversation with the author or better yet, take a left turn and form my own opinion or write a poem in a reader response dance with him. Often, right there on the same page!
Years later when my journal keeping found me altering books, I delighted in the messages and discoveries found when I carefully painted around words or pulled out a sharpie and created a new passage.
Lately, at least once a week, I cut up pages from old books and rearrange them into something new. It is painstakingly slow. Much faster to pen a haiku or offload a long stream of consciousness spill. But I enjoy the turtle pace of staring at a page, waiting for a phrase to stand out or quietly make itself known.
Breathe. Notice. Cut. Listen. Cut. Notice. Cut. Breathe. Notice. Cut.
It is rhythmic and quiet, an exercise in awareness. The little pieces of thin paper cause me to slow. I cut carefully and sometimes not so carefully until I have a pile of treasures. Words and phrases, that are waiting for more waiting, that slowly reconfigure themselves into an insight or a cry of my heart. Often one that I didn’t know needed to surface until I sat.
I hope that today you take some time to slow down. Cut out some tiny sentences or have a cup of tea. Take a walk or sit in silence. Stop and listen to a birdsong or a friend or maybe even your very own heart.
Be in your life.