The Unknown

Hart Seely at Slate Magazine has created found poetry from speech transcripts of various U.S. political figures… Sarah Palin, Donald Rumsfeld, and others.  The example from Donald Rumsfeld below is reproduced in the Wikipedia entry for found poetry, which is what led me to it:

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

—D.H. Rumsfeld, Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

See: The Poetry of D. H. Rumsfeld

I chose this text not only for the comic relief, but also because it could describe what we know and don’t know about the effects of technology.

Found poetry is also interesting as text – it is an arrangement or creation at a macro level. It is a creation that depends on the intention of the compiler or poet (the author? not the author?) for its poetic status.  It reminds us that the meaning and intention of a text can be entirely disconnected from the meaning or intention of the original author or creator, and given new meaning by a new culture, creator or circumstance.

This entry was posted in Text, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Unknown

  1. cmck says:

    Hi Arlene,
    I like your commentary at the end. It could also be related to technology because people will create technology with a certain use in mind, but then it could be used in a completely different way, not to mention the unpredictable effects that your mentioned too.

    I guess that the unpredictable effects also include human use of the technology.


    • kstooshnov says:

      Speaking of the unpredictable, the Bush Administration certainly brought forth a lot of characters who may or may not been aware of what they were saying, to varying degrees of poeticism. One seemingly sincere attempt to encapsulate Republican’s attitude comes with this song composed by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Thanks to YouTube, we also have the backwards version. Very unintentional, I’m almost sure of it.

      Kyle 🙂

  2. kstackhouse says:

    Thank you for this reminder of Slate Magazine. I love them, I have used many articles for classroom related readings and ideas.

  3. joypenner says:


    Your post reminded me of the definition we read last week for text:
    a. The wording of anything written or printed; the structure formed by the words in their order; the very words, phrases, and sentences as written.
    Oxford Online Dictionary

    I was intrigued by the words “their order.” At one time this would have referred to an authoritative order by a particular author. Things certainly have changed with the poem you posted. Great addition to our thinking!


Leave a Reply