Newspaper Blackout Poetry

Poems found by eliminating words from the local newspaper.



, 2 min.

Art galleries are curious places for the naturally curious. I often find myself overcome with a wave of inspiration, or better, motivation to go and make some stuff. The very same wave came over me after discovering Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon. The paperback contains a host of poems, but created with an unconventional technique. Kleon doesn’t write a word. He steals them from The New York Times.

Saying that an author ‘steals’ may sound harsh. But I say this in the best possible sense about an author who himself champions the word, having written the well regarded Steal Like an Artist. Instead of writing from a blank canvas, Kleon takes a chunky marker pen and eliminates the words he doesn’t want. Leaving behind word islands in a sea of black ink.

A quote that reads: word islands in a sea of black ink

I’m not one for opulent writing. Nor do I understand the intricacies of poetry (if there are any). But I now consistently find myself ‘writing poetry’ as a past time. Even more so than reading poetry. Which isn’t hard. I’ve not read real poems since I was at school.

Destroy to create

To say that I write poetry is a far stretch. But what impressed me the most was the ability to take something that’s public and somewhat official and re-mould it into something new. By undertaking this exercise myself I found that it’s best to not have any plan or theme. What’s of most interest to me is the words I pick would likely be different to the words chosen by another with the same article.

A quote which reads: Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working

Pablo Picasso once said “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”. That’s what I like most about this activity. Through the act of eliminating words, you find your own way to express your personal vision.

I encourage you to give this a go. Take it from someone who once put poetry in the same dusty box as cricket and opera. There are little barriers of entry to giving it a go. I use the local free paper and a Sharpie. It’s an exercise in creativity open to all and does not discriminate. For me, it’s fast becoming a superior alternative to the humble crossword.

My blackout poems

Below I have included a couple of my own.

The Lord Mayor

Blackout Poem titled The Lord Mayor
The Lord Mayor fiddles the hot seat writing comments of poor and pointless policies we can’t make or change.

Princess Fast-food

Princess Fast-Food
Princess Fast-food. The princess of fast-food cooks super grease now coursing through my veins.

Reconditioned Killers

Reconditioned Killers
Reconditioned Killers. Over 18 killers made good planting plots, of green canopy protecting this city in nature.

Smart Robots

Smart Robots. Robots study maths and tricky medicine, teachers will study dentistry.

Tags: Creativity