Sometime last year, while minding my own business searching Pinterest for home decor/party decor/hot shirtless men I stumbled upon an image that looked like a newspaper article with certain lines crossed out in thick, black marker. The remaining words made a type of poem or quote. I was intrigued and immediately starting searching for other types of “blackout poetry”. It turns out this was a trend started by Austin Kleon who now has three books out and a long list of aspiring authors/poets to thank him. Because I find this to be not just another fancy way to write poetry, but also a great way to practice and hone your skill. When I’m in a slump or don’t have the time to work on one of my own poems it’s nice that I can reach over and grab a book for word play.
What I do is pick out one of my favorite books from my shelves and skim through the pages. It’s that easy, and that hard. The hard part is finding the perfect page that will get you going. I start off with some of my favorite scenes but if that doesn’t work I just randomly flip through. I find that I can usually get somewhere within 3-4 tries. A soon as I spot the right words that will make something meaningful to me (or some sort of sense to the reader) I photocopy the page (*No books are ever harmed in the making of my blackout poetry!) and begin to blackout what I don’t want seen.
Some poets get really creative with it and draw pictures instead of just crossing words out – I haven’t gotten that far yet – but it is impressive what other people can do. The important thing is to have fun with it however you choose to do your own!
I’ve shared all of mine on Instagram but here are a couple I’ve done: