Newspaper Blackout Poetry

Before getting into the cool news, I just wanted to let everyone know who’s been looking for the rest of the April Highlights (Days 21-30) that I am still going to post them. I’ve just been busy supremo working on the 2008 Poet’s Market, which will be going to production on June 5. Of course, the one complicating factor is that I’ll be out the entire last week of May because of Memorial Day and the BookExpo America/Writer’s Digest Books writer’s conference in Los Angeles, California. So the highlights are coming–just trying to fit ’em in with the rest of my “day job” stuff.


So now on to this really cool newspaper blackout poetry stuff done by writer/artist Austin Kleon, who is based in Austin, Texas. (Note: It’s funny how cool news travels. For instance, this was passed on to me by editor Brian Klems through HOW magazine editor Bryn Mooth who heard it on NPR–one more reason to support public radio, right?)

Anyway, Kleon grabs the newspaper and a permanent marker and starts scribbling out words until a poem emerges. In many cases, the poems actually turn out quite beautiful.

Check them out at:

If you want a Weekend Warrior poetry prompt, this is a definitely a good exercise: Buy a local newspaper and sculpt poems out of newsstories. If you come up with anything good, post them in the comments below.


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15 thoughts on “Newspaper Blackout Poetry

  1. Taylor Graham


    It was on the front page
    even after the TV cameras (one small crew)
    packed up and left. Our hometown paper
    dug up more details to decode
    and analyze how it all played out,
    however transparent it may have seemed.
    The socio-political ramifications
    of one old lady without a penny, too cold
    (it’s December, not quite Christmas)
    to move out of the way
    of shoppers with their credit cards.
    In the rest of the world,
    it was forgotten by next morning,
    the focus shifting to more exotic places –
    Beijing, Tel Aviv, Mount Villa Rica.
    But here at home we’re stuck
    with what happened in the supermarket
    parking lot last Wednesday.

  2. ck

    No Great Distinction

    Multi-humped colonial colossus of no great distinction,
    Sufficient grandeur.
    Assuage your distress at not living quite as well.
    It’s not just any house,
    a temple of transparency,
    And now draws worshipful hordes within the glory
    Of high modernism.
    Nobody in Canaan so far
    On one of the most estate-studded thoroughfares,
    austere glass-and-concrete confection,
    pink stucco and ruthless spatial efficiency.
    A more au courant dwelling was blocked
    by the neighbors to the rear,
    a new paean to maximalism atop
    minimalist ruins.
    Assuage your distress at not living quite as well.
    It’s not just any house
    But a multi-humped colossus of no great distinction.

    (A "black out" poem, and then sculpted a bit. I think the original article is better. Well, the exercise is certainly fun.)

  3. Bruce Niedt

    Ilove this idea, and I’m going to try it. But meanwhile, I’ll share a "found poem" I previously wrote that comes from a similar exercise (but using several print sources, not just a newspaper). This one was published last year in the online journal Flutter:

    "crackle of stars"

    in a falling-down apartment
    an incubator of sorts
    pressurized air
    six lambs and no nest egg
    we talk about making the trunk of a tree
    and holding onto it feverishly

    we are tied up in the notion
    that we are the ones denied
    in all this hubbub

    rapid-fire shots to the torso
    the other organs to follow
    bullet-ridden fish tank
    trash bin set on fire
    large chunks of tissue
    then another shot

    checking scores
    we are people in the mix
    statistically irrelevant
    wildly unsuitable
    turning up late everywhere
    we don’t have much time for music

    how lucky then
    after this nervous life
    and nights of rain
    to take wire cutters
    through a chain-link fence
    and seed the scaffolding of sky
    so gold stars replace the blue
    a multitude of crackle
    a blast of stars from the ground up

    it’s that weightlessness
    a dream’s foundation
    on which we make our wills

  4. Sally DiUlus

    I have done this type of exercise before – came to me one day when I was packing some papers. Instead of a newspaper, I was throwing out old calendars (you know the kind with square boxes where you can fit in about 10 words of what to do that day. Anyway, I made poems out of what was said in the boxes. It was really a cool exercise. Then I went further and started making up short stories and using what was listed in the calendar boxes as dialog… now that turned out to be fun and funny!

  5. Jessica May Moore

    Up Up and No Way

    How high I fly
    How high
    For fear it does beset me.

    No rides for me
    No tourist traps at
    T H E G R A N D C A N Y O N.
    Just too
    Ahhhh… too too higheeee
    for me.

    The vocal shrill
    comes unwilled
    at the terror
    of a ladder
    or a bladder plea

    No rooftop moonlit nights
    No treetop Christmas lights
    They’re just too too high
    for me.

    Ferris wheel willies
    High wire chillies.
    No fear, just sheer respect
    Whenever circumspect.

    Jessica May Moore

  6. S.E. Ingraham

    My first go at this – it’s not as easy as I would have thought but I like it and will try some more.

    (for Germaine Tillion 1907 – 2008:
    anthropologist, hero, sage status, for moral authority and lucid intellect)

    What Would Germaine Do?

    An anthropologist, lived through
    High drama
    Arrested by Gestapo
    for role in
    formation of French Resistance
    Charges included could have
    led to death
    At Ravensbrueck
    Designated to disappear
    under Hitler’s famous
    Nacht and Nebel (night and fog) decree
    She survived;
    Her mother, picked for hiding
    a British airman,
    died in gas chamber in 1945;
    selected for death
    for having white hair.
    After the war, Tillion
    an important public intellectual
    in the 1950’s and 60’s
    when thinkers like Aron and Sartre
    passionately debated,
    she argued
    French responsibility to Algerians
    She delved into past to recall
    “spectres of the Gestapo”
    becoming one of first,
    loudest voices
    to protest French torture
    of Algerian prisoners.
    Tillion who did not marry,
    have children –
    wrote an operetta –
    “A Camp Worker Goes to Hell”,
    while in the concentration camp;
    kept in a drawer for 60 years,
    Worried “people would get wrong idea,
    Think we were enjoying ourselves.”
    Sheer darkness of the humour
    makes that unlikely,
    A character joked that the camp offers
    “all the creature comforts – water, gas electricity –
    especially gas.”

    May 18/08

  7. Tonya

    That one is awesome Kerri! I love this idea and can’t wait to get started. We are having a local feud in our little rural community over whether or not to incorporate and I can imagine what I could do with some of the letters to the editor! 🙂 I will do that soon – in my "spare time."

  8. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    Wintersun Festival
    (From items in a local paper, the Tweed Sun)

    Despite some restrictions
    the annual rock’n’roll festival
    comes of age. The popular
    motorcade parade
    and the night car cruises
    carry the songstress
    back to full throttle.

    The arts sector falls
    with the current.
    can be downloaded
    when a trio slides in,
    captivating. His lap-steel
    slide outbursts chill spines.

    Trance-like dance effects
    over sensual vocals
    dish up a mix
    of mischief released.
    His soaring and thumping
    continues to enchant
    before moving to reflect.

    His wanderings
    tell the story people need.
    Visit the sound;
    last chance to kiss
    until next year.
    Speaking to the sun,
    stay awake.

  9. S.E. Ingraham

    Robert – what a cool link! It reminds me a little of the old magnet poetry days, and more than a little of some pasted together kidnapper’s ransom notes you see in old black and white movies. I can’t wait to give this a try myself. The next couple of weeks sound pretty full for you – when do you sleep?
    Sharon Ingraham

  10. KP

    Love this idea! Can anyone figure out the source of my blackout poem?

    you seem to weave
    you try to hit
    I’m not sure why
    I always miss
    I don’t know how
    I do, without any notions

    you absolutely try
    you are
    you feel
    I suppose
    I didn’t start
    I was bored of myself
    I started writing
    I still do that
    I’ve found that
    you think
    you’re revealing

    you’re not writing
    you’re writing
    I’ve also read
    you decide what goes where
    I don’t always know
    I sometimes pick
    I sometimes write
    I have a story
    you could only impart

    Go forth boldly


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