Monday, September 10, 2012

Junk mail haiku 1

I've written before about a twist on found art where I search out "found poetry" on the printed pages of books and newspapers.  I've posted some of my compositions here, and more on a blog called Haiku Art.

Recently I started a new project, finding haiku in junk mail.  This is an ideal art project for the terminally frugal: your raw materials are in endless, renewing supply, and your equipment cost is minimal, one glue stick lasting for many months.

The rules of this project are simple: the junk mail has to come in a conventionally shaped envelope, and I paste the found haiku onto the front of the envelope.  If our address is printed on the envelope, I cover it with a blank label and put the poem there; if there's a window I usually put the poem inside it.

Eventually I plan to bind the "pages" into a book, but for now I'm just finding the poems.  I've been on a roll in the last several days, as I'm trying to go through the piles of stuff that accumulated on my kitchen and dining room tables during the months I was quilting nonstop.

When I work on projects like this with a strong element of conceptual art, I find that half the fun is thinking about the different ways to categorize and organize the work.  When I made bundles last year, for instance, I enjoyed grouping them by contents, by theme, by source, by size, by style of labeling tag, etc.

This project is no exception.  Having finished almost 100 so far, I'm delighted to sort and contemplate the many themes and variations that are appearing.

Let me talk first about the poetry, and come back in later posts to the visual aspects.  My basic choice is whether the poem should be a fair representation of the appeal, or whether I should take words and phrases out of context for surprise, irony or humor.  Much as I enjoy the latter, I sometimes feel it's disrespectful to make fun of the real human suffering in question.  I tend to play it straight with humanitarian appeals, but exterminators, insurance agents and used car salesmen are fair game for anything silly I can find.

Many of my haiku end up simply describing the dire situations that the appeal is trying to deal with.  You can't always tell exactly what is under discussion, but you certainly get the drift.

Slightly different are the poems that present the appeal itself.

Still others present a call to action.

Are you sobbing yet and reaching for your checkbook?  The poems will be more fun in the next post, I promise.


  1. Gosh Kathy - aren't you the clever one! VERY good idea. I've playing around with the idea of using text forever in a piece and I could see how this could translate easily. Now you've inspire to talk to my very literary teen and ask her if she'd like to do a project together - her writing me coming up with the art to use it in! Hmmmm should make for some really good conversations!

  2. Do you still keep the letter, information, etc inside the envelop or only use the envelop as the canvas for the art?

  3. Generally there's nothing inside the envelope; it's just the canvas. The letter gets cut up, I save the return envelope for a future art project, and throw all the remains away.