I have long been inspired by Newspaper Blackout poems, made famous by Austin Kleon. I have read enough of them to see the potential they have to develop your ability to connect words in a different way.
Austin uses old newspapers to create poetry by redacting newspaper articles with a permanent marker, leaving only a few words behind which he calls “as if the C.I.A. is doing haiku.”
“Essentially, I destroy someone else’s intellectual property to create something new,” is his take about it but the activity has created such a fervor that Austin had to create a site solely dedicated to blackout poems where anyone can post their blackout poem.
In a recent bout of creativity, I tried doing the same but the newspaper’s dry language didn’t inspire me. I could hardly find nuggets in the news. Books on the other hand always have beautiful phrases worth keeping. So I thought why not use books to create Blackout poems.
I pulled out the books that were sitting in the back of my car, on their way to the donation bin (I have discovered if things stay in the book of my car for too long they tend to make their way back inside my house).
So, in they come and I picked one book and tried. There it was, a poem on the very first page.
The next was equally easy.
I am reluctant to let go of books anyway. Now I have found another reason to keep them.
Here in this video, Austin shows how to make those poems.
The rules are easy. Here they are in Austin’s own words:
- I try to disfigure the original article in such a way that the resulting poem has no resemblance to the original subject matter, or if it does, it parodies or reverses that subject matter.
- The more “nonfiction” and mundane the section the better the transformation. (Although, the sports section tends to be the most filled with everyday speech and metaphors, therefore the easiest.)
- The fewer words I use from the original, and the more I chop them up, the more the poem sounds like me.
- The blackouts are not a degradation of the newspaper, but a celebration. Several savvy newspapers have recognized this, running their own blackout poetry contests in which they encourage readers to buy a Sunday edition and try their own.