Newspaper Blackout Poetry
Poems found by eliminating words from the local newspaper.
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.
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.
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.