Let’s find meaning in found text by exploring the words surrounding us at home. The strange, repetitive phrases that inundate our daily lives can become slogans for our personal realities. For example, think about the endless text on the products in your bathroom and how much this text might say about your daily identity construction. Consider Claire Saffitz joyfully reading long lists of ingredients and how this underscores not only the nearly impossible task of recreating a factory-produced snack food but also our relationship to manufactured food in the 21st century.
Begin by choosing a room in your home. We’ll be trying to capture the spirit of that space through text, so find a room containing many objects with words on their surface. Start exploring the space by looking for text within it. Notice objects you use regularly but don’t necessarily read: your Sharpie marker, your coffee mug, a warning sticker on your lamp. Record any words and phrases that grab your attention. Notice things like repetition, lists, and slogans. You don’t have to write everything down. Instead, try to focus on the text that captures the mood of the specific space and its role in your daily life.
Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker / ACMI AP Conforms to ASTM D-4236 / Sharpie Fine Purple / Made in the USA
Oxford Circus / London / There’s so much to see in London / London Transport / 5d / Postage Revenue / First Class / Greetings from London / London
Caution: to reduce the risk of fire, use MAX 100W Type A bulb
In the journal entry (at top), for example, I wrote down text found in my basement. Of particular importance in that space are some boxes that remain unpacked: “Small / The Home Depot / Pratt 100% Recycled / Small / Pequeña … Be Orange / Think green.” Text from a calendar becomes a nod to the repetition of days while being quarantined “…April / Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday…” and text found on the back of Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook lends a hopeful reach towards traveling again someday “…maybe she’s on a photo shoot in Zanzibar.” I didn’t set out to make a poem about these ideas, but instead discovered along the way how the objects in the space coincide with my experience right now. This weird little collection of text really is a portrait of my life during the pandemic.
The poems alone can be seen as unique maps defining space through words rather than lines or symbols. Certainly you could take the text further by incorporating it into a fully realized drawing. You could, for example, combine the text with a diagram of the space or conform the text to lines that mimic linear perspective.