Friday, December 5, 2014

Six Questions for Beth Ayer, Senior Poetry Editor, Found Poetry Review

Found Poetry Review was founded by editor-in-chief Jenni Baker in 2011. Jenni and I met in graduate school, where we wrote poetry together in several informal writing groups and also worked together on the campus literary magazine. In seeking publication for her own found poems, Jenni discovered that very few publications accept submissions falling under the “found poetry” umbrella. We’ve been working to publish the very best found poetry ever since.

The journal has grown significantly since 2011. Over the last year or so, we’ve taken on a team of readers and two additional blog contributors. We’ve also held contests, produced special issues and coordinated large-scale poetry projects.

FPR publishes two issues per year of previously unpublished found poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: For those unfamiliar with the form, please explain what found poetry is. Can you provide a link to an example?

Beth Ayer: Found poetry has been referred to as "the literary version of a collage." We like this definition, as opposed to the other form of entirely found or "untreated" work. An untreated found poem places most emphasis on the concept of finding, and less on writing. So, if you find an intriguing bit of text and add line breaks, there you have an untreated found poem. At FPR, we favor poetry that significantly transforms the source material.

We accept only submissions of poems sourced from other texts, and by "texts" we mean anything from books to emails to advertising—anything text-based. Types of found poetry we publish include cento (poems composed from the full lines of other works), remix (in which poets pull words and phrases and arrange them free-form into an original poem), and erasure (prominent examples include Jen Bervin's Nets and Austin Kleon's Newspaper Blackout Poems). We post information on found poetry forms and fair use guidelines at

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?


1. Our most important requirement is that the poet transforms the source material, transcending the original meaning. When reviewing a submission, I usually read the poem over a few times first to get a sense of it, then check the source material, then reread. I find that it is important to first form an impression of the poem before considering the source, but we also want to make sure the piece adheres to our guidelines.

2. As with any poetry, we look for submissions that surprise, delight, and speak to us. Regardless of the poet’s form and technique, we want that poem to move us in some way.

3. We also tend to look for poetry that represents the found poetry genre well. There are some types of poems that we see attempted repeatedly; examples include poetry from email spam, poetry from text messages, and poetry from the news. Some of these I just mentioned are difficult to pull off because the source material overwhelms the resulting poem, rather than creating a standalone piece. When a poet submits work that we think furthers the genre and expands the possibilities of poetic appropriation, we are excited to publish it.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

BA: Our number one requirement is that the poem significantly transforms the source material, but most rejected submissions simply didn’t make enough of an impact on our particular editors and readers. Like I mentioned above, we want to be surprised and moved. It is always a good idea to read our past issues to get a sense of the kinds of work we publish.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

BA: We provide comments whenever possible, and sometimes provide feedback if there is some specific edit that we would like to see before publishing. We do encourage writers to resubmit if they are not successful with their first submission.

SQF: What song title best describes Found Poetry Review and why?

BA: This is a hard one! I’m going to give you an over thinker answer. I briefly considered the title “Wrapped Up In Books” by Belle and Sebastian. You know...because we love books and celebrating the written word. But that felt insufficient. Then I thought about “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” by Herman Dune, because, like all editors, we want to learn something new from every poem we read.

Finally I settled on something that I think describes us better: “Homage” by Feist & Timber Timbre. Behind everything FPR does, there is a lot of love and a great appreciation for the writers whose work we (and our poets) appropriate and transform.

(That, or “This is How We Do” by Katy Perry.)

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

 BA: “How else can a poet become involved with Found Poetry Review, aside from submitting to an upcoming issue?”

A: Over the last couple of years, we have worked to build a community around found poetry, and we have found this community to be helpful and motivating for both established and beginning writers. Each year in April, we host a National Poetry Month project. In past years, our projects have included poets from all over the U.S and other countries writing constraint-based poetry every day in April. We also enjoy taking found poetry on the road, with visits to both conferences and college classes—we’d like to do more of this. We also occasionally bring on volunteers to read submissions and write for the FPR blog.

To stay informed of FPR opportunities, follow our activities by signing up for our mailing list, and following us on Facebook, Twitter, and on the blog (all at

Finally, get in touch with your creative ideas. We love to collaborate.

Thank you, Beth. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 12/12—Six Questions for Allen Taylor, Publisher, Garden Gnome Publications

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