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Saturday, 6 August 2016

Blackout Poetry, FOUND!



In considering what to do for my first story prompt idea blog entry in over three years, I've decided to give this one to the book lovers. Or is it book haters? I can't decide who must've had the first idea to do this.

It's called by a few different terms: Blackout Poetry, Found Poetry or Book Page Poetry. I took a course recently and the prof was hilariously teaching me about this process. Who knew a writer who loves journaling could be on Pinterest for over ... well, I don't really know how long I've been on Pinterest, but its brilliant! ...and not have found this ages ago? How did I not know this is a thing?

Some examples I found on Pinterest include:

This one leads the reader. Cute and simple it's a little patronizing.



Beautiful, this one encloses the poem in a literal blackout of words and then designs around it.

While this one Is beautiful, it breaks some of my rules that I have for myself. Can you guess which ones?


Now listen, I may not be good at everything but I'm pretty good at a lot of things and yet the one thing I know I do expertly, is find old abandoned books. Challenge accepted!

Instructions: (Well, the way I do it is...)


  1. Take a discarded book and select a random page that at shallow glance is full of words. Do not study it too long or the fun and challenge is ruined! I know some folks that take a long time to decide on a page and they've pre-decided what they want to find. That's no fun, where's the spontaneity? 
  2. Then study the page. Select words that seem to work as a poem. I have a couple of rules for myself that not everyone follows: A) I never select more than one word from a single line. B) I try to ensure that the words actually work. Nothing's worse than seeing a blackout poem and being bugged by the one word that's in a different tense. Ugh!
  3. Once you've selected the words to keep focused you have to take the focus away from the rest of the words. Some people do this literally by blacking it all out, while others use drawings and patterns to hide the other words. Example:

All other words are literally blacked out.
This one makes it appear as though the words are being transparently held behind the design, like it's poetic Lucite.
So what did I do? I ripped a page out of a book, and I defiled its fragile insides (insert Mr. Burns' laugh here).



The book I had was The Glory Field by Walter Dean Meyers. Published by Scholastic Inc. in New York, N.Y. in 1994. I am doing page 55 of that edition.

Here's the before shot. 




Here's the after. I decided to stick with a traditional blackout for this one. 




The poem reads: 


Once the sun saw a grove,
there was a different excitement for her.

I like how it turned out because it implies that either a person is seeing the sun shine on a grove or the sun herself is a woman and seeing the groves. Why is she excited? What's going on? What don't I know?! See how the questions can be a story prompt?

I found that committing myself to submitting an image of the poem online where things never die meant that I had to really think about it. I did it haphazardly and realized it didn't work. Then I eliminated over eight other words above. What was left was a beautiful first two-lines to a real poem. It's got a subject, a verb and many questions built right in.

Show me what you come up with! I want to see them all! All the black out poems!

Huge random shout-out to Opus Art Supplies in Vancouver who I bought my notebook from. With the black cover on my sketchbook, I can do as much blackout poetry as I want because it doesn't show on the cover!


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