How To: Blackout Poetry

What is Blackout Poetry?

A blackout poem is created most often using a black marker, to cover established text, for example: newspaper articles, cut up book pages, magazines, letters, etc. The creator redacts the words from the established text using the marker until a poem is formed. The most important thing to remember about blackout poetry is that the remaining text and the covered up text form a visual poem alongside the words.

A little history of The Blackout Poem…

When we talk about blackout poetry, most people think of Dadaism, which we will come back to in a moment, but the origins of blackout poetry started in the 1700s when Benjamin Franklin’s neighbor published a broadsheet of puns that were read across the columns of a newspaper rather than down. The jumbled sequence of words created playful puns, and would establish the art of cut and paste text.

It was the Dadaists that really took this idea and ran with it. “Dadaism (early 20th century) was a nihilistic anti-art movement led by artists who expressed their discontent with violence, war, and nationalism by rejecting the logic, reason, and aestheticism of modern capitalist society through their works.

Blackout poetry images from Tom phillips

The French artist Tristan Tzara was well known for standing on stage wearing a hat and holding newspapers. He would cut out words from the newspaper, put all the cut-outs in the hat, before drawing them out randomly and reading them out as a poem. This ephemeral poetry was then made physical through an accidental cutting up of a stack of newspapers by Americn artist Brion Gysin, and along with his friend William Burroughs started creating cut and paste poetry in their artworks. This then led to English artist Tom Phillips collaging and illustrating over found text to create found text with its own story.

Thanks to these artists, and countless others, the groundwork for what we know as blackout poetry today was laid out… and now it is up to you to decide how you want to create your own blackout poetry!

In this video I go over some techniques and tips for creating your own blackout poems. This art form is really accessible to everybody, and you can create it with simple materials that you most likely already have at home. So, get your sharpies out! and settle in with me to make some blackout poetry…

I hope you have enjoyed learning about blackout poetry with me today, and I hope this video inspires you to create your own blackout poetry! If you do, please hit us up on our socials and share your photos of the work you have created, we would love to see it!!

Here are the poems that I created in this session…

Thank you so much for watching.

Happy creating!

Written by Chloe Henderson for Coin-Operated Press

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