Creating Black Out Poetry


A little over a year ago, I created my first piece of black out poetry. What began as a fun little experiment has turned into a creative process that often surprises me with interesting results.

My first black outs comes from an old spy novel that was falling apart. I stuck to the simplicity of blacking out the entire text except a few choice words.


However, it didn’t take long for me to realize all that black space could be more than just black. I started doodling little designs in all that space to enhance the highlighted words.


From there, it dawned on me that rubber stamps and some black ink could add an even stronger design element. I made the conscious choice to stay away from color for the simple reason that I love the strong contrast of black and white.


My process for black out poetry is a simple one:

Box random words that stand out. Don’t read, just scan.

I do this with a pencil, so nothing is set in stone. Other black out poets are brave and start with a marker, but that makes me much too nervous. My muse likes a little wiggle room!

Look for a narrative or interesting word combinations.

This is the moment of truth. Sometimes a poem will pop out and sometimes it’s just a bunch of words that don’t make sense. For me, this is where the work begins. If a poem can be found, I’ll do my best to find it. Or I’ll whip out the eraser and start over again.

Scan for additional words that might complete the narrative or enhance word combinations.

Once I’ve got a possible narrative or nice combination of words, I’ll do another scan to see if there’s anything else hiding in the text that will tie everything together into a more complete package.

Eliminate the words that don’t serve the poem.

The eraser comes out again to get rid of any stray marks or boxes left over from the original scan.

Black Out!

Original Process: Pull out the Sharpies and start blacking out anything unrelated to the poem. I use a wide variety of Sharpies – superfine (to outline highlighted words), fine (to extend the border around highlighted words to prevent stray marks), wide wedge (a huge marker that covers wide spaces).

Stamp Process: Sometimes a poem matches up to a rubber stamp in my collection. I never set out to create a poem to match a stamp – it’s always sheer happenstance. If there’s a nice match between stamp and poem, I’ll integrate the stamped black image into the text. Then, I’ll follow the original process to complete the piece.

The beauty of black out poetry is it’s unpredictable nature. There is no wrong way to find it and there are no boundaries. All you need is a little imagination and a juicy Sharpie.

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For more Black Out inspiration, check out the links below:

Pinterest: Black Out Poetry

My Black Out Poetry board on Pinterest features my work as well as pieces from other incredibly talented poets. 

Black Out Poetry

This link connects to all posts on this blog tagged with Black Out Poetry

Austin Kleon

Kleon’s book, Newspaper Black Out, is an incredible source of inspiration and so is his website covering all things related to creativity. 

Poetic Asides

This poetry blog on Writer’s Digest first introduced me to the idea of erasure poetry a.k.a. black out. 

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c.b.w. 2016

Kinda Sorta Goals For 2016


I’m trying something a little different this year when it comes to setting goals. I’ve been very specific in the past and that has served me well as a planner, but my muse has been less than cooperative. For example, one of my 2015 goals was to start writing the sequel to The Muse. My muse disagreed with that goal and remained stubbornly silent on that project. We’re still not on speaking terms when it comes to this sticky subject.

I’m as driven as ever to get my novel published (somehow, some way). I have a million ideas for the The Muse’s sequel and truly do want to start writing the continuing saga of Amanda and Ian. As far as poetry goes, I’m writing haiku for multiple competitions and forums. There’s also this blog and a shelf full of craft projects!

Clearly, I have a lot of projects burning a hole in my muse pocket.

Instead of setting incredibly specific goals my muse ignores anyway, perhaps big picture goals are the way to go.

Kinda Sorta Goals:

Write, write, and write some more.

At the core of everything is my fierce desire to write. Whether it’s poetry, novels, or funky articles about knitting, my central goal will always be writing in any form.

My muse takes me a in all different directions and frequently changes her mind! I’m just going to go with the flow and keep my pen moving.

Stay optimistic and keep trying.

My go with flow mentality doesn’t mean I’m losing my determined edge! The Muse is a still a huge priority and I’ll be doing everything I can to get it published. Whether its through the traditional channels or self-publishing, it’s about time this thing saw the light of day!

The same goes for poetry. I’m going to grab onto any opportunity I can to submit to competitions, journals, etc.

Join the community.

My participation in the Poetic Asides community has inspired me to seek out other groups of writers. I’ve joined a few new groups, but have yet to fully participate (sometimes I just like to sit under the radar and get a sense of how the community functions). As 2016 unfolds, I’m hoping to find my groove in new poetry communities, but also among Young Adult writers.

This might mean searching for communities in the blogosphere and/or social media. Either way, I’m looking to connect with more people who like to write what I like to write. Maybe they can offer some advice on publication or some good old fashioned encouragement? We’ll see!


It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Writing the same thing in the same way all the time. I want to see my writing continue to grow into something fresh and engaging. That means playing with fictional techniques and haiku formats. In addition, I want to see myself write something totally different.  The possibilities are endless if I consider a different genre or poetic form.

This same sense of experimentation also applies to my craft table. I want to try new crafts (like painting and beading) and expand my knitting and photography skills.

Trust the muse.

My muse always knows best. I have to remember to get out her way and let her speak.

Word of the Year: Enthusiasm

Weird goals aside, I want this year to be about hopeless enthusiasm that can’t be cured. No matter where this crazy journey takes me, I’m jumping in with everything I’ve got.

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What are your kinda sorta goals for 2016?

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c.b.w. 2016