“I wanted to hear music that had not yet happened, by putting together things that suggested a new thing which did not yet exist.”
- Brian Eno
Blackout (or eraser) poetry focuses on the rearranging of an already established text in order to form a poem or other literary work, and to bring new meaning to it.
Making blackout poetry encourages both deconstruction and reconstruction - important skills in being a creative.
The words of blackout poems are already written for you, but it is up to you to bring new meaning to those words. It is up to you to find those words that ‘speak’ to you.
Popularised recently in recent years by Austin Kleon (who describes himself as a “writer who draws”), blackout poetry most commonly involves striking out words in newspapers using a black marker pen, leaving words behind that create a new work.
Find a page from a newspaper, magazine, book, etc.
Find an ‘anchor word,’ that is, a word that has special meaning or significance for you and with which you can build the theme and feeling of your poem around.
Using a pencil, circle any words that connect to the anchor word or which stand out for you. Avoid circling too many words in a row.
List all your circled words on a separate piece of paper in the order they appear.
Select some of these words without changing the order and then piece them together to make the lines of your poem. Feel free to erase parts of words or endings of words if it helps the meaning.
Return to the original text and circle heavier the words you will use for your final poem.
Erase the circles from the words you won’t be using on the original text and colour in completely (using a black marker or similar), the rest of the page so that all unused words are covered, leaving just your poem.
There are many variations on creating a blackout poem, and some great works of art have been created in their creation.
A quick Google image search for “blackout poetry” will give you more than enough examples and inspiration.
An extract from the forthcoming book Think It! Make It! by Richard P John