A History Of Blackout Poetry

Written by: Sam Bastille

Have you ever wanted to write a poem but found you were lacking ideas? Maybe word choice is tripping you up, or perhaps you just want to try something a little different? Blackout poetry is a fantastic way to create unique poems, and is often a great way to shake things up; from novices to well-rounded writers, this form of poetry is perfect for everyone. 

While blackout poetry feels like more of a more modern form of writing, its history actually dates back to the 18th century. One of the first examples of blackout poetry ever recorded was what Medium describes as “redacted poetry,” published by Benjamin Franklin’s neighbor in the 1700’s. During the first world war, Tristian Tzara founded Dadaism, a movement focused on expressing discontent for things like violence and war. The idea of breaking something to make something was embraced by those who practiced Dadaism, and through a combination of redacted poetry, Dadaist art form and collage art, blackout poetry was born. 

Now, you might be wondering how to make a blackout poem. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

  1. Grab a page from a book, a newspaper or magazine, and a sharpie.
  2. Examine your chosen piece of writing and start to identify words that you find interesting. 
  3. Start to black out sentences with your sharpie, leaving the words you liked originally uncovered. 
  4. After you black out all of the words or phrases you didn’t decide to keep, you have your finished poem! 

If you don’t have access to any physical writing to black out, you could go to your favorite news website, or even Wikipedia, and copy and paste a block of text into Google Docs; using the highlight tool, you can paint everything black, creating the same effect! 

Check out this Medium article to take a peek at a more in-depth description of the history of blackout poetry. 

Thanks for reading!


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