If you’re hesitant to use your own words to write poetry, or you aren’t sure what to say or how to get started, blackout poetry is a fun way to write poetry with other people’s words.
I first saw these on Austin Kleon’s blog, but lots of other people do them, of course.
All you do is take some text, whether from the newspaper, a magazine or a book, and you start eliminating words until you are left with something like poetry.
It’s actually harder than you might think, because you’ll want to focus on the sentences rather than the indvidual words, or on trying to come up with something that makes sense.
As with so many things, the less thought that goes into it I think the better.
Making Blackout Poetry
I made mine just by reading through the words and crossing out the ones I didn’t want as I read, which is probably not the best approach. Kleon does his by drawing squares around the words he wants to keep and then coloring in the rest solid black, thus the name. (I just crossed out words, but blacking out the whole page makes it easier to read what remains.)
I wanted to do a few, so I stared with a photocopy of a page from a book (it happens to be a random page from The Cockroaches of Stay More by Donald Harington, which is a great book and you should read it).
I was reading the sentences way too hard, so I tried a little harder to just look at words with part of a page pulled at random from an old National Geographic.
Then I used a column of the newspaper. I got the entertainment section. It was not so good.
It’s a lot of fun and when I try this again I will try even harder to just look at words instead of phrases and sentences. Maybe I’ll look backward instead of from top to bottom.
Have you ever made blackout poetry? I’d love to hear your experience or see some of your work!