American, the Hallelujah is a found poem – meaning, of course, that the author found these words elsewhere and reordered, edited, etc to make this poem. The poem immediately made me question first, the validity or originality of found poetry, and second, if being a ‘found’ poem helped this poem gain any meaning.
While the structure of the alphabetical progress was cool, and we definitely got some great rhythm out of all that punctuation, I struggled to garner any ‘message’ from the poem, especially with things like ‘From every stormy’ (perhaps referencing affliction?) and ‘Hear what the voice’ written in. I did enjoy some of the sounds in this poem – the s-section in particular rolled over me nicely, but the rest of it was so punctuated I felt like I was being stopped over and over and over. It made it so choppy, it got irritating. I tried to find a message – a theme – and found, perhaps, the hardships of our nation that bind us ‘trembling captives’ together? Thoughts?
And then the validity of found poetry. I know poetry seems to be a genre with infinite rules, and the infinite capacity to break or re-arrange them, but it seems like ‘found poetry’ is a pretty way to advocate plagarism. I think if I went up to my literature professor and presented a ‘found essay’ they would not be terribly receptive. What is it about poetry that allows other people’s words, rearranged and tweaked, to become a new person’s art? Is there a rule for how much can be ‘found’ from one source, or how much it must be changed to become new? How do we determine when someone has simply added line breaks to another’s thoughts and claimed ‘originality’? Could the author have gotten across this theme better using his own original words, or is there something especially poignant in those recollected phrases from ‘America the Beautiful’?