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Blackout Poetry: What is this?

Updated on October 10, 2019

Have you ever tried blackout poetry? What is this?

Blackout poetry is further emerging and slowly becoming more endearing as poetry becomes more and more popular. This type of poetry also goes by many names like found poetry and erasure poetry. Austin Kleon, the author behind Steal Like An Artist books is well-known for specific blackout poetry using newspapers. On his website: austinkleon.com, gives a brief history and ted talk detailing the past of this emerging genre. According to his website, it all started with a man named Caleb Whiteford who used newspapers to create found poetry. Eventually, other artists and writers like: Parisian poet Tristan Tzara; painter Brion Gysin; American Beat writer William S. Burroughs; contemporary writer Tom Phillips; and many more started to embrace this specific type of poetry.

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Why should you jump on this bandwagon?

I suggest using blackout poetry for writer’s block cure, expressive art, creative brain teasers, and a new way to reinvent a piece. If you want to make this your thing, full steam ahead! With recent books like: Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon, Make Blackout Poetry by John Carroll, between Moonbeams by Kyla McDaniel, and Blackout and Poetry by Marion Robinson, are only a few suggestions to gain inspiration and wisdom from within this genre.

I am believer in this specific genre as well, poetry is fun because it is very expressive and can reach into other genres by utilizing fictional elements of fantasy bending time with dragons; or science fiction of discovering a new device that creates another timeline; or young adult appealing to young and animated characters; while including poetry elements like the plot of an epic, or lyrics sung by a jester in a king’s court; or even more realistic of how drug and violence of the neighborhood you grew up in skewed your view of people and the world evolving you to who you are. Most people include poetry as its own genre, but it also has a nonfiction element—you are using what you are feeling or not feeling in your struggle or not struggle of life.

Some ways to start blackout poetry:

  • Pick a page from a book, any book, your favorite book or a book you hate; and color those words except the few you want to escape the marker or crayon.
  • Grab a newspaper, magazine, literary journal, and starting marking that too. The great thing with newspapers and magazines is they have different sizes of font and possible colors to really give your blackout poetry more of a flare.
  • Choose a piece of your writing or friends or from an author you admire, and transform the original words into a new creation. (If you are curious about copyrights, blackout poems are usually derivative works, which gives You, the new creator own copyrights since you are transforming the piece into a new thing of art.)

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Tips and tricks I’ve learned:

  • If you are a perfectionist like me, then I suggest to print or copy at least three or four copies of the writing you want to break down and then reconfigure. I’m never happy with the first one, so I have multiple copies to try, try again, until I get the poem perfect.
  • I also use a pencil to mark out my map, this allows change or erasing if you don’t like where the poem is going. Then go in with a marker or paint or anything you feel like using to make the blackouts.
  • Read the poem several ways, out loud, in your head, have someone read it to you, break it into lines or into single words and even into single letters. Try even using a letter in the middle of a word and black out the rest. Have fun with the creativity!
  • Transform the poem into art, draw around the words, paint around them, cut and paste them onto a black board—do whatever you want.
  • Make it a collaboration, let your mom or child or even a friend pick out a word in each line and then cut the rest, see what you end up with. If you don’t like it, cut some words until you have a profound statement because that is what poetry is, trying to express an emotion, idea, theme, or a focus about the details in everyday life.
  • Share your works with other people and see what their feedback is, one of the best ways to gain better skills as a writer is learning what others think about your writing and using their comments to further improve your art.

Submitting Blackout Poetry

One other thing, if you would like to submit your new profound poetry and art, there are several literary journals who like blackout poetry and encourage it for submissions you can find a list here: https://trishhopkinson.com/where-to-submit-nontraditional-and-found-poetry/.

Also try posting on Instagram, twitter, Facebook, and snapchat using #blackoutpoetry or #newspaperpoetry and see how people respond, heck, you might even become famous one day if you’re not already a rock star!

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