The basic premise of blackout poetry—also known as found poetry or erasure poetry, though there are distinctions between the three—is that the poet takes a found document, typically a print newspaper, and crosses out the majority of the existing text, leaving only the words that the poet intends to replace visible. The poem is then submitted for publication where it will be printed along with the original text, making the erased text difficult to distinguish from the remaining words in the paper.
Blackout poems were first popularized in the United States by Doreen E. Johnston in her 1966 book, Erasure Poetry: An Introduction. At that time, newspapers were printing more content than they could sell, so many of them discarded their unsold papers on city streets or at bus stops, allowing anyone to pick them up and read what had been written on them. As part of her exploration of different forms of poetry, Johnston decided to take advantage of this phenomenon by writing short poems using texts she found in such papers. She called these poems "erasures" because they used parts of other poems or sentences as fodder for new work, much like how artists erase portions of a painting to create a new image. Though most people would assume that finding meaningful words in random print would be difficult, Johnston said that even illiterate adults were able to do so frequently enough for the practice to be useful.
Blackout Poetry Is An Intriguing Art Form That You Can Try Right Now At Home. You've probably seen it before: a complete page of text that appears to have been scribbled over with a thick, black permanent marker by the world's most difficult-to-please editor, leaving just a scattering of discernible words scattered over the page.
It is believed that during World War II, American and British soldiers used this technique to communicate secret messages to each other in the middle of battle lines. Using a variety of techniques, they would write something on a piece of paper, fold it up small enough to fit through a slit, and then toss it into the air. If they were lucky, its message might get delivered before the enemy intercepted it.
Today, Blackout Poetry is used as a creative exercise for writers who have run out of ideas or are looking for different ways to express themselves. The best part is that you can try it right now, even if you're not in the middle of anything important. All you need is a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil.
You can use any kind of paper for this exercise; however, we recommend using white paper because then when you go over it with black ink you'll be able to read the words easily again. We also recommend using a ballpoint pen because then after you're done writing you can just roll it across the paper to wipe away your words instead of trying to find a replacement for the cap of the pen.
Create Your Own Blackout Poem