All posts by jennifer

little people of IKEA


I rescued this poem from seven ‘blurbs’ combined from the 2015 IKEA catalogue.

As always, the important distinction between my rescuing process and other process-based approaches such as ‘finding’ poems is that I do not select a complete phrase or sentence; after I transcribe the text I jumble it so that all the words are in random order, and then I choose words as individual building blocks. The resulting rescued poem is usually quite surprising, then, because I take the words out of their original context and impose my own creativity on them, combining them to give a new twist – as is the case with this little rescuee.

little people of IKEA
even the tiniest children are complicated
up and down in a million moments
these unique little freaks
lost in worry-free space
home in happy safe place
ideas become needs
become want want want
getting and giving
getting and giving
high on make-believing every day
hide in giggling sleep every night

and you think
you can stack time
in smart storage
but that’s not the way
it seems to play out
and one day
the world takes these
little people

The conscience-stricken spirit

This rescuee is from The Celtic Twilight by W B Yeats (p 9) and The History of the Town and the County of the Town of Galway (1820) by James Hardiman (p 65). It’s the first one to have a bit of a conversation going on.

The conscience-stricken spirit

The spirit standing in the doorway
had an infinite, heavy sadness to it
a weight of troubles from another world

Is you dead, I says

What thinks you, he replied
When I was living my enemies took power,
destroyed my castle, my kingdom
terrible misfortune of the land
what I feared more than anything else
came to pass
winds of damage turned families and visionaries
to peasants
interference with an opulent community
condition and control of customs
pleasure of music and poems a memory
a place whose masters have no heart
an earth whose heavens are foregoing

He seemed kind, strong

They are so distant from me, says he
neither day nor night
time nor words
make me feel that…

His voice began to fail

If you would talk to… if you would…

They see me as half-mad, I says, queer as a copper shilling
Talking to you, about you, is no wise things for me

So I has written this down
I is no mystical person
I is already damaged
lodging in this place
longing to trim my own winged mind

Before a name

This short but intense poem is getting its first airing here. I rescued it from two books by Miranda Green: Celtic Goddesses: Warriors Virgins and Mothers (p 77) and The Gods of the Celts  (p 35).

Before a name

Silver horses run on alien lands
guardians of gold hands and Ireland’s stories;
vigorous, the king of wood and word,
sexual, the bride of stone and roots.

Mortal is the waterbird, believing
that rivers shape-shift, carrying divine
spirits to a savage transformation,
to a form that forced a human birth:

crushing meaning; giving them a name.

She is all, and night is just

This is an unusual rescue-ee in that the source texts are two poems by William Wordsworth: ‘Lucy Gray’ and ‘Daffodils’. (I usually rescue poems from prose, not poetry.)

The result is definitely influenced by how well I know both poems.

She is all, and night is just

Sound never looks this lonesome.
She wandered, small,
overlooked, scarcely there.
She was inward, broken,
dancing vacant
on solitary wild.
Night was tossing
the wretched daffodils.
She danced, wanton,
chanced a glance
at lantern moon
shine sprightly golden
reached downwards beside
on milky snow.
She gazed wide at lonely heaven
and through sparkling
stars tracked waves of twinkle.
She danced, pensive,
yonder mother mountain
a steep, stormy rise homeward.
She danced, wept,
her footmarks lost,
never to be seen.


Freeze frame

I rescued this poem from My Life in Advertising by Claude C Hopkins (p 205) and The sea by John Banville (p 143).

Freeze frame

Summer afternoon pocketing thunderous idleness in the dark.
Erotic encounter
covert kiss
black-and-white screen
ghosts of desire sitting in pitch-dark intensity
for hours,
manic fumbling,
twitched satisfaction
deprive primal intensity;
balls for breakfast
conscious phantoms lurch
from joy to grey
approve to disreputable
filled fingers to wanton waste,
picture-house main feature to forgotten poverty.


I rescued this piece from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières (p43) and Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence (p107).


White-skinned daughter
simple embodiment of profound good
soul scattering naked comfort
like snowflakes in your presence
secretly swallows
your subversive blackberry words
from the black of fallen fruit
to the whiteness of snow
as wet as warm touch
beloved feels
healing faith
scar of peace.

Curious room

This little rescue-ee is from Eva Luna by Isabel Allende (p217) and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (p207).

Curious room

Beneath the hoping measured
narrow echoey train
was roar roar
was stutter stutter.

Machines in rows,
silently fluorescent.

Spindle factory,
quota weighed.

Damn bitches
in windowless cubicles
served the silent treatment.

Lipstick, ribbons, makeup, hair creams, boots, skirts
never paper-wrapped gestures.

Unappetising lunchroom leftovers:
beans and custard creams.

Walls that wear eyes.

Remember code

I rescued this poem from This is not a novel by Jennifer Johnston (p33) and If on a winter’s night a traveller by Italo Calvino (p148).

Remember code

perfect pushed-pulled champions of the sea
scorching first;
rinsed towel
squeezed uneasiness

gentle ghost
wiped down dismay
dry half-felt wet
under well eyes
somehow the naturalness of tears drown
rippling recognised
faceless but familiar
watching silent shadow lingered
indifferent to the moment

What is a ‘rescued’ poem?

In The Writing Experiment, Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing, Hazel Smith discusses recycling text in chapter four, ‘Writing as Recycling’. ‘Collage encourages you to approach creative writing through other means than personal experience,’ she says. ‘Your creativity is expressed through your choice of texts, the way you structure their relationship and the degree to which you transform them.’

Reminiscent of ‘Language’ poetry, the concept of recreating texts from existing texts intrigued me and captured my imagination. I love the ‘lego-ness’ of language and its functions. Also, I like replicable processes, probably thanks to my engineering background.

One does not usually associate processes with creative writing endeavours. I believe, however, that occupying the mind with a process that does not demand too much conscious attention switches the mind into a creative state; at least this is what I experienced when I immersed myself in the process of rescuing poems. I had a limited number of words from which to choose and my creative self was happy to dip into this limited vocabulary and construct images. One could argue that the creative process is impeded somewhat in this way, but sometimes choices can overwhelm and paralyse the mind causing it to be unable (or unwilling) to create at all. Limiting options may create a doorway through which the mind is more ready to leap.

I formalised the rescue process and I call the resulting poems ‘rescued’ rather than ‘collage’ because it seems to me that ideas are latent within texts. Using this process I could find them and sculpt them into poetic relief using this special recovery mechanism. Sometimes the ideas are closely associated with the subject of the source texts themselves; other times the ideas had very little or nothing to do with the source texts.

Here is a summary of the process I created.

  • I select two books. I may pick two with similar themes; two that are very different; two by the same writer; sometimes I just choose at random.
  • I select the number of one page in each book using the RANDBETWEEN function in Excel.
  • I transcribe the text of each page into a Word document and columnise the text so that one word is on each line.
  • I copy this column of text into the online word scrambler at and use the online scrambler’s ‘Random’ function to jumble the words.
  • I copy the scrambled column of words back into the original Word document and change the column back into a block of text.
  • I print out the pages of randomised words and underline words that catch my eye.
  • I write those words out in a jumble on another blank page.
  • From these words I write the rescued poem.

An important point to note is that I sort words (rather than phrases) individually so there is no danger of reproducing slabs of original text in a rescued poem. This means they are not like ‘found’ poems and also there are no copyright issues to consider.