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NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 10: Erase it Away

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Erasure

Difficulty Level 3/5

Today, we aren’t writing. We’re erasing. In an erasure, a poet takes a piece of existing text—a book, a magazine article, the manual for their vacuum cleaner—and “erases” most of the words, leaving behind words here and there that add up to a poem. Sometimes erasure’s are whiteouts, where the poet literally uses white out on the page of a book to create a poem. Jenni B. Baker’s whiteouts of the Boy Scout Manual are an excellent example.  

Reprinted courtesy of the author. Originally published in BOAAT. 

Reprinted courtesy of the author. Originally published in BOAAT

Sometimes erasures are blackouts, where the poet “blacks out” instead of “whites out” the excess words, like this poem by Heather Christle or this awesome poem by my dear friend Hossannah Asuncion:

Poem reproduced courtesy of the author. Erased from a poem in A Knight Without Armor, by Jewel.

Poem reproduced courtesy of the author. Erased from a poem in A Knight Without Armor, by Jewel.

 And sometimes, poets leave the source text behind entirely, creating a clean copy of the words they left behind, like this poem by Erin Dorney about Shia LaBeouf--er rather about the bag on the head of Shia LaBeouf.

 Read more about erasure and other kinds of found poetry over at the Found Poetry Review

Here’s how you make an erasure of your own: pick a source text. It could be your history textbook, an article you found online, or even a comments thread on Facebook or Twitter. If you want, you can photocopy it, print it out, or otherwise create a paper copy. Then start removing words by blacking or whiting them out until you find your poem. If you transcribe your finished poem into a Word document, you have the option of fiddling around with punctuation and capitalization to improve the flow. BUT, no matter how you do it, you cannot change the order of the words and you cannot add extra words.

When you’re finished, photograph or scan or type out your finished work and send it along to us at flashbangwritingstudio@gmail.com. Be sure to include the title and author of your source text with your poem.


Have you registered for the Poem-A-Thon yet? Sign up to write poems and raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council today! And don't forget to send us your poems for publication on this here blog: flashbangwriting@gmail.com.