5 Tips for Creating Blackout Poetry

We're gonna take a wild guess and say that the first thing you do when you sit down to write a poem is stare at a blank page for a while, and eventually write down a word. Duh. But sometimes thinking of that first word can take a long time! Did you know that there's actually a way to make a poem by removing words from a page? This is called blackout poetry, and it can actually be an incredibly inventive and powerful type of creative writing. Crazy, we know, but keep reading to discover more about blackout poetry:

How to Write Blackout Poetry

  1. Grab the flashlight, there's been a blackout warning. Blackout poetry is when a page of text — usually an article from a newspaper — is completely blacked out (colored over with permanent marker so that it is no longer visible) except for a select few words. When only these words are visible, a brand new story is created from the existing text. Awesome, right?!
  2. Think of it as the best cure for writer's block. Hey, we've all been there — a bad case of writer's block hits and you just can't seem to get any words on the page. Author Austin Kleon was in this situation when, by accident, he cured his writer's block AND created a whole new type of poetry. He decided to blackout words in a newspaper (talk about two birds with one stone!) and wrote the first form of blackout poetry.
  3. Craft time is all the time. When making your own blackout poems, think of the task like a craft project. Luckily you don't need too many supplies — just a newspaper, permanent marker, and your mind of course. Unlike a research paper for school, when picking an article to use, it's best not to read it too closely. That way, you aren't overly influenced by the author's original work and you can create something uniquely your own. You could also substitute the newspaper for a magazine or novel. Just make sure you don't accidentally blackout that one book you forgot a friend lent you. If you choose to blackout a novel, you are able to use other writers' stories to make your own; if you choose to use an article, you have the power to create fiction from non-fiction. And you thought only Harry Potter could do magic. 
  4. Choose when the blackout strikes. Just like how the most difficult part of writing a traditional poem is figuring out which words to add to the page, the hardest part of writing a blackout poem is identifying which words to eliminate. A good way to start is to glance at the page without reading the text fully, and put boxes around the words or phrases that really strike you. You can choose whether you want to make a broad story out of just "big" words like nouns, verbs, and adjectives, or if you want to create a more coherent narrative, using big words and little words like "is," "of," and "the" to move the story along. Then, just blackout all the other words on the page (this is definitely the best part for all you doodlers out there). If you want to graduate to being a super advanced blackout poet you can even create visual poetry out of the words you decide to keep and the ones you blackout.
  5. Ask for Peer Feedback with Power Poetry. Blackout poetry is like a treasure hunt, since you find hidden meanings and secret messages in unlikely places. We'd love to see the treasures you find and the stories you create, so be sure to sign up for a Power Poetry account and upload images of your blackout poems on the site. Who knows what you'll uncover!

Ready to start writing blackout poetry of your own? If you need more resources to help you start writing, don't forget to check out our other tips for eliminating writer's block, our poetry terms glossary, or the work written by other Power Poets!

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