What is Blackout Poetry? | The Complete Guide + Examples
While looking at your social media feeds recently, you may have seen images of words interspersed across a background that appears to be covered with a marker. The words may tell a story or simply have a similar theme. This is a phenomenon called blackout poetry that is increasing in popularity. Let’s take a more in-depth look at this art form.
What We'll Cover
- Part 1 - What is Blackout Poetry
- Part 2 - It's Purpose
- Part 3 - The Benefits
- Part 4 - Examples
- Part 5 - How to do it
- Part 6 - Techniques
- Part 7 - Tips
- Part 8 - Where to Share
- Part 9 - Resources
What is Blackout Poetry?
Blackout poetry is a type of “found poetry,” which means that the authors do not write their words; rather, they find meaning in works that already exist. With blackout poetry, someone will take an existing text such as a page from a book or newspaper. They then scan for words that generate inspiration and decide which words to use to construct a poem of sorts. The writer will then use a marker or other means to blackout (hence the name) all other words, leaving behind only the ones that give meaning to the new poem. Essentially, you can think of blackout poetry as a process that transforms an existing work into a new piece of art.
The origin of this type of poetry can be traced to the 1700s when Benjamin Franklin’s neighbour published a similar type of work. Since then, it would appear periodically in different areas, cultures, and mediums. It saw a big surge in popularity as part of the anti-war Dadaist movement in the early 1900s. Most recently, it became popular again with Austin Kleon blogging his blackout poetry, which he began creating in 2005.
Purpose of Blackout Poetry
The purpose of blackout poetry may differ from person to person as it is a very personalized art form. For example, some people engage in blackout poetry to harness their creative side. Others use it as a means to facilitate conversation on an important topic. Still, others may find it simply a relaxing hobby similar to word games.
Regardless of the reason for partaking in blackout poetry, the overarching purpose is more of a search for meaning. Whenever someone creates blackout poetry, they are looking deeper into existing pieces of writing to try to uncover new stories. Thus, all blackout poetry serves to transform the meaning of the existing text.
There are many benefits to blackout poetry. For many people, it is relaxing. If you enjoy words searches or coloring, you’ll probably also like creating blackout poems. Research has confirmed that 45 minutes of blackout poetry lowers the stress hormone in your body. It can also help strengthen the mind’s abilities at thinking and focus, which is particularly useful for ageing brains.
Blackout poetry can also be a great source to explore your own creativity. This is particularly the case for those wanting to use it as a new means of self-expression. Utilizing existing words can take some of the pressure off the creative process and give new inspiration. Thus, it is not surprising that blackout poetry can often be a cure for writer’s block.
Another major benefit of blackout poetry is that it provides people with a unique method of generating social commentary. While this is not the goal of everyone that participates in this art form, many people use blackout poetry as a means to speak out about important societal issues, which is very similar to its use during the Dadaist movement.
There are many examples of blackout poetry that can be easily found. Instagram is a particularly useful means of finding it as it is image-based. Here are a few good examples to start looking at:
How to Do It
If you are wanting to try out blackout poetry yourself (and you definitely should), the process is relatively straightforward. The first step is simply to find an existing text. To start, any text will do such as a page of a magazine, book, or newspaper. Just make sure you no longer want the source you use. As you get into it, you may specifically select sources for their meaning.
Next, spend some time scanning the page. Here, you are not necessarily reading it but rather letting your eyes float around the words. As you find interesting words, circle them or jot them down on another piece of paper. After a bit, a theme may begin to emerge, allowing you to piece together the selected words into a poem.
Once you have a sense of what you want to write about, feel free to remove or select new words from your notes to get the meaning you want to convey. Next, you will get to work with the blackout process. Use a marker, pen, or some other item to color over all of the words that you are not using.
Next, feel free to be more creative if you wish. Some people will make drawings and other visuals that go along with their poetry. Others may create paths from one word or phrase to the other to help draw the reader’s eye. This last step is not a requirement but adds a flair of creativity that some people enjoy.
As we’ve discussed, blackout poetry is a type of “found poetry” or “redacted poetry.” While most of the discussion in this article talks about the blackout form, there are also several different methods and techniques. Here are some of the ones you may see.
- Blackout: As discussed, you color over everything on a page other than the words being used in the poem.
- Line Through: A simpler form that focuses more on the text and less on visuals, line through uses a Sharpie to draw straight horizontal lines through all text not being used. There is less black on the page.
- Cut Out: Some people skip the marking out part altogether and simply cut out words, pasting them together on a new medium.
- Erasure: Rather than blacking out text, some people utilize methods to erase it like using White-Out. This creates a poem on a white background instead.
If you look around online, you will find a wealth of advice on how to create stunning blackout poetry. Here are five tips to get you started.
- Skim the page instead of reading for meaning. This helps you be more creative.
- Consider experimenting with images (blacking out to create them) to add flair.
- Read your poem in its entirety a few times before you begin blacking out. The creative process often involves changing your mind a bit.
- If you have a goal of writing about a specific topic or feeling, consider purposefully choosing a source that has added meaning. For example, maybe a page from a dieting cookbook for a poem about body positivity.
- Find a community to share your work and get ideas from other artists.
Where to Share
Speaking of sharing, there are plenty of places where you can share your blackout poetry. One of the best is social media. Instagram is a preferred source, and you can feel free to create your own Instagram just for your poetry if you want to make it a hobby.
Of course, you can share it on other socials as well. Some people will create a blog to feature their poems and even explain a bit behind the creative process and inspiration. Blogs can be started for free at many sites such as SquareSpace and Wix.
Finding online communities or groups on sites like Facebook and Reddit can also be a good place to share your work with other Blackout poets for feedback. These can help you learn a lot about your style and get inspiration for other techniques to try out.
If you are ready to tryout blackout poetry, here are some resources that can help get you started and give you some inspiration:
- Search #blackoutpoetry and #foundpoetry on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- While geared to middle school teachers, this is a good overview with examples.
- Excellent examples and discussion of more advanced blackout poetry.
- All you wanted to know about the art form’s history.