Collage Art, Collage Poetry


“After the End of the World”
Mixed Media on Canvas, 24″ x 20″

I use a lot of print in my collage art work – I like the way it looks, with the nice geometry it lends to a composition. And then there is the mysterious effect of phrases and sentences cut off in the middle – not meant to be read, but you can’t help it. And then, off you go on a tangent, thinking of all kinds of things…

I was working on some mixed media work last fall, and I had pages from several books on my work table (I have had to overcome the idea that cutting up a book is a bad thing, not when that book is on the free shelves at the library – one step from the trash). My eye fell on a phrase. I cut it out. On another page, another phrase almost seemed to highlight itself. I cut it out and put it with the first. Another page, and another couple of words seemed to fit in with the others. Very quickly, a poem assembled itself.

I was struck by how similar the process was to my collage work – I don’t usually have an aim in mind when I start to work, but just get out my papers and paints and see what develops, and follow it as it goes along. This writing process was just like making a collage to me – assembling words that started off somewhere else and then came together to make a different composition. I was just entranced by this process and have been very happy to add this method of working to my poetry writing.

I don’t look for specific words or phrases. I take torn out pages from various books, I run my eye over them, and something catches my attention. I cut it out, repeat my examination, and get a few more phrases or sentences. I start to arrange them, and keep looking. Maybe at the end I’ll look for some specific words, but they are usually articles or pronouns. I don’t try to force the meaning, but let it develop.

I like this method. It’s contemplative and focused. My mind is calm. I don’t think it’s much different from writing words that come into my mind from my thoughts – these ideas just start from another source and have to be arranged in the same way. It’s made me more aware of how my mind is working when I write poetry and it has emphasized the importance of letting ideas grow in their own way.

After I am satisfied with the poem, I paste it into a copy book (I have painted the pages to make it easier to read). Here’s a collage poem and the corresponding page in the book.

Close-mouthed small

A page from the book of collage poems.





he never spoke of

the reason why he had left

Not entirely straightforward surroundings

The narrow tightening prison

of the thoughts of other people



conflict and emotion


people had been only

too willing to oblige

but simply never did so.

9 thoughts on “Collage Art, Collage Poetry

  1. I know someone who reads the newspaper and when she is attracted to an image, she looks on the back of the image (in the paper) and she says it is a little like an oracle: It is precisely what she needs to know at the time.

  2. Thanks for your attention to my work! And I love this idea of the oracle in the newspaper. I’m writing that down.

    Once for an exhibit I made cards (index cards) with a bit of collage and a saying pasted on each one, clipped from newspaper, magazine, etc. All in the form of commands, like “Improve your hairdo” or “Budget” or “Lighten up”. I put them out at the exhibit for people to take with a sign explaining it as the words of the mysterious “Oracle”. Just take one, no switching, and that is your fortune. People did take them and they considered what they said quite seriously! Interesting to watch. By the end of the exhibit 1 month later the bowl was empty. Many people looking for advice!

  3. I love the poetry collages and especially the way you are presenting them in a painted book. The painted background makes them pop! Cast-off or remaindered library books have become a staple for me too – although I still feel guilty about cutting them up, even though I know they are getting a new life through my art and their destiny had been the recycling bin if I didn’t take them! Do you have a plan for the books when they are full of poems?

  4. No, I don’t know what to do with it (it’s just one right now). I guess I’ll photo it for the blog, to show the actual book. And then just keep it. It’s interesting to look at for me. Lots of memories.

  5. Yes! And my advice is, that I didn’t mention in the post, I think, is, get books of different genres or types or styles, even children’s books, because the vocabularies are different. You will be influenced by your materials .Iget a lot of books, in fact pretty much all, from the free book area at the library.

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