Celebrate Poetry Month, or any time, by creating blackout poetry, poetry you write by taking previously written text and blacking out words and phrases so the word or phrase left create a new, original poem.
What Is Blackout Poetry?
Blackout poetry is the creation of a new, original poem using a page of existing text where the blackout poet removes (blacking out or erasing) most of the words and phrases of the original text. The words left will make a new poem.
Famous Blackout Poetry Examples
I first learned about this style of poetry from Austin Kleon. He started stealing like an artist using newspapers that he’d black out all but a few words and phrases. His work became so popular that he put his poems in a book called Newspaper Blackout. Scroll down to watch a video of his process.
But Austin wasn’t the originator of blackout poetry. It was Tom Phillips.
Phillips was a visual artist who altered second-hand books with collages and drawings, choosing some words to leave visible. You can view some of his artwork at the Tate online. Sometimes his work is also called redacted poetry, but he is credited with popularizing the concept of blackout poetry, inspiring Austin Kleon.
Follow these inspirational poetry accounts on social media:
Make Blackout Poetry on Instagram
Really Bad Blackout Poems on Tumblr (these are hilarious because they’re so bad!)
Blackout Poetry Notes on Twitter
What Texts To Use
Old books (I use Advanced Reader Copies), but you could visit a used bookstore to find books in the sale section. Tear out pages that look interesting.
Copies of poems. Make COPIES of poems you love– and mark up the copied text. (Don’t mark up your beautiful books of poetry!)
Junk mail or advertisements
Any printable text.
How to Write Blackout Poetry
Use the following steps to write a blackout poem.
These steps will also work in a classroom as a lesson plan, too.
1. Find a page of text.
2. Look for interesting words and see if you can notice a theme or topic.
I like to underline or box in the word or phrase I’ll keep before I commit to blacking out anything.
Be open to wherever the words lead you. Let your creativity unfurl around the text.
3. Read through the words you like and see if they connect. Do you need a few smaller conjunctions or articles? (And, the, a)
4. Outline around the word or words you DO want to keep in your poem. Then black out the rest of the words on the page that you don’t want.
5. Congratulations! You’ve made a blackout poem!
USE A DIFFERENT COLOR, NOT BLACK. Use a different color or a different material. Use a red crayon to black out the words you don’t want. Or use a gold pen. Or white out.
ERASE. Write an erasure poem. Instead of blacking out words, erase them!
DRAW A PICTURE. Before you black out the words, draw an image over the words. When you color in the illustration, keep the words you want and blackout (or block color) the rest of the text around the illustration. More examples of art covered poems here.
BLACKOUT POETRY MAKER. Try this digital blackout poetry maker.