Some say that all poets are thieves. Plunderverse is a form of poetry that encourages the poet to unleash all that pent up kleptomaniac energy in the service of creativity.

Here's the gist of it:

-Find a poem that you like (or even a poem that you loath).

-Take out bits and pieces to make the poem into something different. Work the letters of different words together. Use your lock pick to open up the poem and take the treasure you find inside. What you'll be doing is making a variation on the original, and in the process come up with a distinct poem.

That's it! You're a certified word thug, a poetics pirate, the Jessie James of language, the scourge of the sestina, the brigand of the bards, the... well, you get the point.

If you hit the link above you can read in more detail about the theory behind this form as explained by Gregory Betts, and there's an example he's done on this linked page as well. I've decided to give one a shot based on William Blake's "A Poison Tree". The original first, and then beneath it my plunder:

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole.
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.


I was ooooooooo my friend
ooooomy wrath
oooooooooooooooomy foe
ooooooooooomy wrath did grow

ood I oooeod oo in fear
Night & morning with my tears
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles

And it grew both day and night
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.


If you decide to give one of these a try, leave me a comment so I can check it out. Shiver me timbers, and remember, real pirates walk the plank in style.


the walking man said...

Plundering the thoughts of others was a good pass time for a hot minute but now I read the poets of my youth and others to NOT plunder them.

But I will think and see if I can come to one I will steal from and see if I can make it past the theft detectors. Give me a couple of days.

December 1, 2009 at 6:26 AM
Jon said...

walking man,

it's a good idea, of course, to attribute the original poem to its author... and maybe a good idea to even show the original

Also (and about this I don't know what I think one way or another) some would say that all writing and creativity with words is a kind of plunder of writing and words gone by... that there is a kind of generative element to writing, building from what came before. I think that's what Betts is talking about in the article I link in the body of this post. At least in plunderverse the courtesy of acknowledging the source exists, and that maybe all language has a constructed element that is not independent. The plunderverser doesn't need to feign "true creativity"... it's OK to be the pirate!

Thanks for your comment, and hope to see your attempt soon.

December 1, 2009 at 3:18 PM
Derliwall said...

Hey Jon :)

I plundered Robert Frost. What a creative "uncreative" experience!

December 1, 2009 at 11:42 PM
Jon said...

Glad you had a (un)creative experience. Thanks for playing along... now you're a poetic pirate too!

December 2, 2009 at 7:09 AM
Harlequin said...

Jon-- thanks for this prompt; I have made attempt #1 .... and look forward to at least one more...

December 5, 2009 at 1:07 AM

Love the rework'; its very e.e. cummings.

On my blog you will find my poem...I plundered two different artists, and I'm proud to say most of the words are actually mine!

December 9, 2009 at 6:11 PM
Unknown said...

I have a lot to ask of you. I plundered the OED, and wrote 24 "Cantos of the Entrance of the New Year". I don't expect you to read them all, but just to get a feel of them - and could you tell me if I have written plunderverse, or have I done something different. You can find the poem on the Posts section of my wordpress site I would highly vale your time and opinion of the poem's genre and salabilty.

September 3, 2018 at 2:42 PM