Found Poems and Copyright

As an English major, formerly a lit major, I sometimes wonder as to the morality of found poems and blackout/whiteout poems.  In scholarly work, we’re encouraged to cite the works we pull from, as well as credit the author as much as we possibly can to alleviate worries about plagiarism, etc.  I’ve been keeping myself from experimenting with found poems and blackout/whiteout poems because of the issue of plagiarism.  Do found poems count as plagiarised material because they take words directly from other writers, or does poetry exist in a different academic climate when compared to literature, history, etc.?  On one hand, I understand that there are only so many words to play with in so many combinations, and borrowing lines from other poets or writers makes it easier to create a poetic conversation.  However, I can’t speak for the writer’s wishes when they put a work out there, and I can’t be sure (without asking everyone I’ve taken content from) whether or not the original author is open to these kinds of representations of their work.  Does the creative spirit inherent in poetry override the issues of copyright and plagiarism, or should we as poets be more worried about the ways in which we borrow from other writers?

One Reply to “Found Poems and Copyright”

  1. Its a good question. I think, usually with found poetry or blackout/whiteout poetry if you attribute the original writer and work it should be okay? There should definitely be some form of acknowledgement of the source if its a whole poem. It gets into more grey area if it’s a line or phrase referencing the other work.

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