Have you discovered blackout poetry yet?
Simply put, it is a form of “found poetry” where you choose words that catch your interest or jump out at you, from a newspaper, book, or other printed text – along with a few additional words to make it flow. Then you “redact” all the words you don’t want. This is often done with a black marker, hence the name “blackout poetry”. Your chosen words will then, form a new message, giving the text a whole new meaning.
Writing poetry can seem daunting for those unfamiliar with it. You could feel unsure or hesitant, not knowing where or how to begin and end up staring at a blank page. Yet with blackout poetry, all the words you need are right there. It’s quite beautiful to be able to create written art without having to have any type of writing experience or devotion to the craft. Often, the poems produced thus, offer a sense of hope, inspiration and are thought-provoking.
I was first introduced to Blackout Poetry at the art therapy foundation course I attended. Initially, I would salvage old magazines to do this. But recently I’ve been using old, withering novels for this activity. Before all you book lovers gasp, let me explain. I love books too. Which is exactly why I use old novels to create something new.
You may be wondering about plagiarism—and with good reason. After all, no writing is involved—only erasing someone else’s. In light of this, Robert Lee Brewer of Writer’s Digest advises: “If you’re not erasing more than 50% of the text, then you’re not making enough critical decisions to create a new piece of art.” Nobody owns the alphabet, but you should remove at least half of the original piece if you’re going to call it yours.
There is something unique about making my art out of a patch of text that would otherwise be discarded. Perhaps my fondness for words compels me to recycle them. It’s addictive too.
Artist Louise Bourgeois declares, “Something is a work of art when it has filled its role as therapy for the artist.” Sweeping a thick black marker across a page to eliminate everything but the words I have chosen
is, in my experience, very therapeutic. All it requires is a permanent marker, a page filled with words, and your imagination. If you haven’t tried it yet, fetch a newspaper or a book. Discover your own voice
in someone else’s work. Create art. The world certainly needs more of it.