Blackout Poetry

By The Arty Teacher - May 1, 2022

The story of blackout poetry, also known as “found poetry” or “erasure poetry,” is a fascinating journey that involves the creative minds of writers like Austin Kleon and artist Tom Phillips. This unique form of expression gained traction in the 21st century, but its roots trace back to earlier literary traditions.

The concept of blackout poetry revolves around taking existing written material, often from books or newspapers, and selectively redacting or erasing words to uncover hidden poems or messages. In this process, artists and poets leave behind only the words they want, creating entirely new compositions from the remnants of old texts.

In the 1960s, British artist Tom Phillips embarked on a project known as “A Humument.” He took a forgotten Victorian novel, “A Human Document” by W.H. Mallock, and began redacting and altering its pages to reveal a whole new narrative. Phillips’ work with “A Humument” paved the way for blackout poetry as we know it today, blending visual art and literature in a captivating way.

In the video below, Tom Phillips talks about his work ‘A Humument’.

In the digital age, Austin Kleon popularized blackout poetry with his book “Newspaper Blackout,” published in 2010. He’d redact newspaper articles, transforming them into concise and thought-provoking poems. Kleon’s work inspired countless others to engage in this creative endeavor and share their blackout poems online, giving rise to a global community of poets and artists exploring the power of redactive language.

The video below is Austin Kleon showing us how to make a blackout poem.

So, whether you call it found poetry, erasure poetry, or blackout poetry, this art form continues to thrive, thanks to the ingenuity of creators like Austin Kleon and Tom Phillips, who’ve shown us the beauty of uncovering new stories within existing words.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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