Begin by identifying and listing the attributes of a poem.
Introduce the idea of found poetry: using words and phrases from a prose text to create a poem. Distribute selected pages from Poet at Work: Recovered Notebooks from the Thomas Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection and allow time to create a poem.
Share poems; point out how different people “find” different poems in the same original text. Discuss possible classroom applications, focusing on cross-curricular possibilities. As an extension, illustrate poem with an image from American Memory, such as Smith’s barn or a map of Antietam.
Note that the Whitman Notebooks are not searchable; use the Collection Connection as a tool to identify possible passages.
The lesson “Enhancing a Poetry Unit with American Memory” gives more details on teaching found poetry.