Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Poetry Ripped From the Headlines


Did you know that one of the methods John Lennon used to come up with song ideas was to peruse the newspaper and take headlines, phrases or entire sentences and work them into his material? One instance in particular is the song "A Day In the Life" wherein lies the lyric "I read the news today, oh boy...". What follows is a near verbatim recounting of the day's news, tweaked and reworked creatively to weave a musical tale that to this day conjures so much imagery for me.

Another of his songs with the Beatles, "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" was taken from a poster announcing that the circus was coming to town. Again, some of the lines were taken straight from the poster, but reworked to enhance the story.

What does all this have to do with poetry, you ask? Plenty! I use this same method in writing songs when I'm stuck and need an idea or an interesting line. It's sort of like using word magnets or words cut out of newspapers or magazines, but in a longer form. And if you go a bit further with it and mix some of this story with some of that, what you come up with is sometimes very interesting and whimsical or even poignant.

Is it plagiarism? No. Because you are taking artistic license with the medium and not using the piece in its entirety, it's a bit like found objects in visual art. You're using found word imagery and piecing it together to create something new and entirely from your own perspective in your own voice.

Sometimes with poetry, unless you have a definite inspiration, a reason to pick up the pen and begin writing prose, it can be difficult to know where to begin. When you use found word imagery from a newspaper, what you can come up with can be topical, funny, absurd, thoughtful and of the times. 

6 comments:

  1. I like this idea a lot. I've pulled phrases from my newsfeed on Yahoo, from the ads along the side of my Facebook, etc. There are wonderful images that are out there begging us to play with them!

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    1. Great ideas and as I think about it...newspapers are actually becoming a thing of the past. I just saw an interview this morning on the Today Show with someone from The Daily News who said newspapers will someday be a luxury. Ha!

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    2. I am excited to try this. I have used this technique once in the past and I am wondering why I didn't continue to pursue it? I'm thinking if I could find an article about the mother who killed her son who had autism - that would both be a personal thing and a public experience. Interesting... I'm going to see where this takes me/us/a poem. THANK YOU!

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    3. You're welcome Julie! I'm so glad it inspires you. How horribly sad about the mother who killed her son.

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  2. This is a great suggestion. Sometimes, I'm at a loss for what to write, and fail to grab what's right in front of me...

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    1. It's helped me a lot when I've gotten stuck with writing songs. Thank you John Lennon. ;)

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