Friday, 2 May 2014

Blackout Poetry

One of my favourite new forms, which I am returning to again and again, is Blackout Poetry, also known as Erasure Poetry. I was inspired by the work of poet and cartoonist Austin Kleon and devoured his book Newspaper Blackout in almost one sitting. The idea is to take a newspaper article and to create a poem by choosing the words you want to keep, blacking out the rest with a marker. It sounds relatively simple. In fact, it almost feels like cheating! After all, the words are already there, aren't they?

I was amazed to discover how challenging it can be to work within such limitations: a selection of words in a fixed position on the page. But this sense of constriction also allows for a great feeling of surprise when something unusual emerges. It's also refreshing to come to the writing of a poem with no idea of what the poem will be. I feel less like a poet and more like an archaeologist approaching a dig, using a marker instead of a spade to unearth the fragments that I hope will make up some sort of whole. But what will it be? A king's burial chamber? Some ancient coins? A bottle of diet coke? The results can be silly and absurd or deep and profound. Often it is all those things at the same time. Why not grab a newspaper and try one yourself?

For more blackout poems, click here.

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