Blackout Poetry is so simple and so much fun and you can end up with really beautiful results. It’s also great for helping nervous or blocked writers get going. In fact writers often use it as a way to kick start their creativity.
It’s also known as Found Poetry or Erasure Poetry and the basic premise is that you start with a page of text, then you black-out the words you don’t want, leaving a poem on the page.
Obviously you don’t want to be taking sharpies to the library books, so you can photocopy a few pages in advance for the kids to work on.
- To get the widest range of vocabulary, photocopy pages from a wide variety of books. Think fiction, magazine/newspapers, non-fiction, Classic novels, Sci-fi, Romance, Thriller etc. Absolutely anything can work.
- Show them some examples, from very simple to very artistic ones.
- If you can enlarge the pages, that can be good for turning them into pictures (see below).
- Two or more people (or the whole group) can be using copies of the same page of text because they’ll all come up with completely different poems, which can be fun to compare.
- They don’t have to read the page very closely in order to get started. In fact it can be better if they don’t, so they’re not influenced by the narrative on the page.
- A good way to start is simply to skim-read the page and underline in pencil any interesting words or phrases, and then see if they can be linked together. The poem may become a narrative, or it may be about a clear idea, or it may be just a collection of beautiful images.
- They can simply draw boxes around the words they want, or black out with marker the ones they don’t, or they can go the full Picasso and create works of art with felt tips or paint. (Thicker paper might be better if they want to use a lot of colour.)
- If any of your writers are on Instagram, there’s a whole hashtag for Blackout Poetry where you can see beautiful examples and post your own! #BlackoutPoetry
Here are a couple of articles about Blackout Poetry, (though there’s really not much more to know about it) and some examples I found online.
(As always, I would say that exercises like this can be fun, they can break the ice and they can be good for writers who need prompting, but if a writer has their own project on the go or their own idea about what they’d like to write, I’d always just let them get on with it and save the exercise for whenever they need it.)