Black Out Poetry


The last thing I needed was another poetry obsession, but the muse wants what the muse wants! Around the third week of the 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, Poetic Asides posted an article about Erasure Poetry. Intrigued, I clicked on the link having no idea that my already busy brain was about to explode.

Erasure poetry is essentially “found art” in that it has it’s foundation on previously written text. Things like newspapers, magazines, books, and even online articles serve as the starting point. The job of an erasure poet is to select words within the text and string them together into lines of poetry. A simple box or circle around the chosen words lets them stand out, while the remaining text is blacked out, colored out, or covered by an elaborate drawing or scribbles.

I think of it as a treasure hunt, where the muse is looking for a hidden poem in an unlikely place. A newspaper article about air pollution might have a haiku hiding inside or a magazine column about politics might have a funny poem about dating within its lines. It’s all about perspective and what you choose to see as an artist.

Erasure or Black Out poetry has been around for a long time, but the best modern example of the form comes from Austin Kleon. After a long slumber, he’s given the art form a much needed nudge into the 21st century. After starting a blog for his black out musings, Kleon’s creations quickly spread around the internet and inspired others to grab a black marker and a newspaper.

UnknownNaturally, a book followed – Newspaper Blackout. Filled with Kleon’s works as well as the work of others collected from his blog, it is an engaging and inspiring read. Poetry truly is everywhere if we aware enough to see it.

Since the end of November, I’ve created about 30 black out poems using a 1934 edition of The Saint Intervenes by Leslie Charteris. It was falling apart when I bought it and I initially wanted it for my craft closet (for art journal purposes). The poor thing has been sitting in the paper craft bin for so long, it’s like it was waiting for Black Out poetry to find its pages.

My first attempt at black out poetry resulted in a very small poem (which is admittedly my style), but it’s one that I feel is quite fitting for both the Black Out form and my ongoing journey of inspiration:


Fate tenderly whispered, c.b.w. 2014

Three little words triggered an incredible surge of creativity. Every day I add more pages to my collection, which I hope to eventually piece together into an art journal.

Inspired, yet? Poetry is out there, waiting for you to find it with a black marker and a little imagination.

– – –

c.b.w. 2014


17 thoughts on “Black Out Poetry

  1. Oh my gosh! I’ve never heard of “Black Out Poetry” though I have heard of found and list poetry, which includes using well, lists, newspapers, etc. I love this. I have to try it. I can’t imagine covering over all the extra words, but at the same time, so inspiring. I think I’ll have to find something I can do this with. Maybe a book at the library for 25 cents… or something. I have to try this. And think, what a great poetry book for your shelf. I mean, you can pull it off and hand it to someone, and it’s your words, technically. I mean, think what a great gift it would be, say if you used a gardening book, and wrote botanical poems then actually gave it to a gardener. Okay, I’m way too wired, but this is marvelous. I now have more fun things to do. Oh, and I love your very short poem. It’s perfect. 🙂


      • I will. I’m not sure what book I want to use. I found a free Reader’s Digest condensed books, but I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel right. And I can imagine the surprise is fun…. I’ll have to post if I get something. Thanks 🙂


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