Altered Book, Blackout or Found Poetry

altered book poetry
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What is found poetry?

Have you heard of found poetry? Have you seen the beautiful images online of pages from old books with most of the words redacted or blacked out so that what is left reads as a poem?

I’ve been inspired and thought I’d have a go, how hard can it be I thought? Ha ha, famous last words!

I’ve been doing some research into this kind of poetry and to be honest I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole. I’ve read articles which explain the difference between found poetry and blackout poetry, what is redacted poetry and what is erased poetry and to be honest I’m still not entirely sure what it is that I have done. Are there hard and fast rules about this kind of poetry? Surely not? It’s a creative expression, there can be no rules for that can there?

I think what I’ve done is a form of found poetry as I ‘found’ the poem on the page. However I’m not sure what I did was poetry at all? I think I may be to literal a person to write poetry. It’s more like a found quote really!

However what I did do was have A LOT of fun making pretty altered book pages, so whatever it is and whatever it is called I implore you to give it a go if it takes your fancy.

To make your own altered book found poems you will need:

  • A page or two from an old book - libraries are a great place to pick up an old book for next to nothing. They often have a shelf with the books that are damaged and falling apart which they sell for pence. Or you might have a book you have ruined by reading it on holiday (what is it with the suncream on your hands and the way it strips the coating of the cover of paperbacks?) Or maybe you read in the bath and have dropped a book or two?

  • Pens that don’t bleed on the book paper - test them first on a spare page. I used Stabilo fineliners and a Uni Super Ink marker

  • A sheet of tracing paper and a pencil

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How to create a “found” poem

Place the tracing paper over a book page and start looking for a few interesting words. Circle them with the pencil and then look around them circling words that ‘go’ to make a poem (or in my case more of a quote!)

found poetry

You’ll have to play around a bit until something comes out of the page. I found this the hardest bit, I felt like I had the start of something but just couldn’t see how to finish it. I didn’t end up using this idea in the photo. When I got stuck I just flipped the page over and tried something on the other side. That’s why it’s good to use the tracing paper, you are not messing up your book pages while you experiment.

Once you are happy, using a black pen, circle the words on the page and draw a line from each word to the next in the order you want. You might not want to add the joining lines but I had to as my poem jumped around the page a little.

starting found poetry

Decorating your found poem

Now start doodling, draw whatever takes your fancy. Twirls, flowers, leaves etc on the circles and line or just in the gaps. Have fun and just play around. It’s hard to know when is enough! I added some colours too but kept it limited to red, pink and turquoise.

doodling on a book page, flowers and twirls
pretty found poetry
floral altered book page poetry

Another found poetry idea

For my second attempt I used a thicker black marker pen and went for a simpler, chunkier look.

writing found poetry
book art poem

I don’t think my found poetry is especially profound but it was a lot of fun to sit and doodle. I found that finding something that makes any sense was the hardest bit. As I said, I am quite literal though so maybe there were more abstract or fanciful ideas right there on the page and I just couldn’t see them! It’s a challenge as you can’t write whatever you like, you are totally restricted by what is on the page, but that is what makes it fun.

Once I was on to the doodling stage I was much more in my comfort zone. They are SO far from perfect, I didn’t plan anything as pencil doesn’t rub off book pages very well and the idea of just ‘going for it’ straight in pen seemed to fit nicely with the randomness of the whole project.

2 books pages covered in doodles to create found poems

My finished found poems/quotes were:

Well, my lively friend, I thank you, for my heart is open


Keeping manners and kindness, beyond a doubt, will produce happiness

I don’t think Carol Ann Duffy, Wendy Cope or Atticus have anything to worry about just yet!

I think I’ll try the more redacted style next time, where you black out everything you don’t want. I think I’ll save that for when I’ve got a really good poem though. There are less places to hide with that style. I’m thinking that the pretty doodles distract a bit from where the word flow is lacking!

If you like words and quotes you might be interested in these ideas too:

Do you think you’ll give found poetry a go? It’s a fun way to explore being creative.


I’ll be sharing this idea at these link ups