My three brothers-in-law are poets and songwriters. I am constantly amazed at their verbal dexterity in turning the commonplace into art. It is from them that I first learned of found poetry. Found poetry is a poem consisting exclusively of an external text, fashioned into a poem. It is sort of a literary collage, making one rethink the bounds of genre. It has its roots in the found art and ready-mades of Dadaism. Among the 20th century poets who used found poetry were T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. I’d like to add Herbert Hoover to the list.
Several of the blogs I’ve written while exiled from the building by Covid lamented my inability to dip into the archival collections. Using only my memory for source material proved a shallow font. Now that I’m back at the Hoover Library, I am finding items that lead me to conclude: ‘That would make a good blog.’
I came across one such item this week. It was a message opening a State University of New York symposium on education for responsible citizenship. Hoover stated: ‘Responsible citizenship is indispensable to self-government by a free people…. But important as is specialized training for government service, the education of all our citizens so that they may have a better understanding of the operations of government and a better knowledge of public issues is equally important. Only with such knowledge can people judge whether their government is good, mediocre or poor, whether statements on questions of concerns to all are true, partly true or entirely false and whether promises are possible of achievement and at what cost to them.’
Hoover concluded: ‘Every citizen must be capable of making such decisions wisely and must be keenly conscious of his duty to keep informed about public affairs and to participate in them if our system of self-government is to operate at its best.’
There is wisdom in Hoover’s words. Whether or not it is poetry—found or otherwise—is for the individual reader to decide. I’m calling it found poetry because I could find no equivalent for prose.
This is the 140th blog that I’ve written for the Hoover Heads—many created at the behest of the Hoover Library’s social media master, Janlyn Slach. She is retiring at the end of June. Without her prodding, I am not sure that I’ll be as productive. Perhaps it is for the best. Looking back, I can see that many of my blogs recalled Truman Capote’s assessment of Jack Kerouac: ‘That’s not writing; that’s typing.’
One thought on “Herbert Hoover, Found Poetry and Responsible Citizenship”
Matt – You’re THE BEST!
Thanks so much for your thoughts and your service.