History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Poetry Form: Erasure

Erasure poetry is one of the formats that I’ve never quite been able to get to work well, but it’s still a fascinating form. It’s sometimes called blackout poetry, in that you black out the words that you’re not using, like in a redacted report. Typically, when the poetry includes the black boxes, it’s a blackout poem, but when the words you haven’t blacked out are retyped into a poem format, it’s erasure poetry. This being said, the line between the two is pretty slim, and some people use them interchangeably.

The trick to erasure or blackout poetry seems to be picking the right source material. I’ve tried erasure poems with a form letter, an article, and a recipe, and they’ve all fallen a bit flat for me. But I could see them working if I found the right letter, article, or recipe. (Making one out of the stereotypical blog recipe that gives WAY too much detail on how the blogger decided to make this recipe might work spectacularly well.)

Much like other poetry forms that borrow heavily from a source, it’s important to credit the original material that your erasure or blackout poem comes from when you publish it.

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