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Posts tagged "blackout poems"

Dec 23, 2013
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“The poem will resemble you.”

How to Make a Dadaist Poem

Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.
—Tristan Tzara

The poem will resemble you.

Mar 20, 2012
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When Rauschenberg met De Kooning

The incredible story of Robert Rauschenberg walking up to Willem de Kooning’s house with a bottle of Jack Daniels and asking him for a drawing he could erase.

Not long before he died, Robert Rauschenberg told the story of the Erased De Kooning Drawing in this BBC video. He’s a good storyteller. When he finished his erasure, some folks accused him of vandalizing a de Kooning, saying he destroyed art. It wasn’t vandalism, he tells the interviewer. Then what was it? “Poetry,” he says.

Jan 18, 2012
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“Absent Things As If They Are Present. A History Of Literature Created By Erasure, Collage, Omission, And Wite-Out”

Nice long piece by Jeannie Vanasco this month in The Believer (now on Tumblr!) about writing by erasure. A lot of the artists mentioned (Tom Phillips, Mary Ruefle, Thomas Jefferson…) will be familiar to anybody who’s read the history chapter of Newspaper Blackout. (Unfortunately, Blackout was not one of the texts mentioned.)1

What I like about the piece is that unlike some writers who take an apologetic or condescending tone towards erasures, Vanasco actually champions the form:


  Why erase the works of other writers? The philosophical answer is that poets, as Wordsworth defines them, are “affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present.” The More practical answer: compared to writing, erasing feels easy.
  
  But I am here to convince you: to erase is to write, style is the consequence of the writer’s omissions, and the writer is always plural.
  
  To erase is to leave something else behind.


Like Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanasco even uses the form in her creative writing class at NYU (here’s the PDF of the syllabus)


  the motto of Modernism, Ezra Pound’s “Make it new,” is a translation of Confucius who borrowed it from Emperor T’ang who inscribed on his bathtub “Every day make it new.” I want you to take existing poems and stories by other writers and make these works new. How? By making them your own. How? By imitating their styles.


She points to Allen Ginsberg, who was very open about his influences:


  Ginsberg shows us that by imitating the style of other writers, as well as by resisting them, a writer develops his or her own style. Erasure is simply an exaggerated form of writing. “We say that an author is original when we cannot trace the hidden transformation that others underwent in his mind,” Valery wrote. “What a man does either repeats or refutes what someone else has done—repeats it in other tones, refines or amplifies or simplifies it.” But instead of concealing or denying their influences, erasurists acknowledge that they have come from somewhere, not nowhere, and make clear the chaotic process of creating art.


It’s a great piece — anybody who’s interested in Newspaper Blackout or Steal Like An Artist will enjoy it.



I heard later from Jeannie that Newspaper Blackout was part of a section that had to be cut due to length. :) ↩

“Absent Things As If They Are Present. A History Of Literature Created By Erasure, Collage, Omission, And Wite-Out”

Nice long piece by Jeannie Vanasco this month in The Believer (now on Tumblr!) about writing by erasure. A lot of the artists mentioned (Tom Phillips, Mary Ruefle, Thomas Jefferson…) will be familiar to anybody who’s read the history chapter of Newspaper Blackout. (Unfortunately, Blackout was not one of the texts mentioned.)1

What I like about the piece is that unlike some writers who take an apologetic or condescending tone towards erasures, Vanasco actually champions the form:

Why erase the works of other writers? The philosophical answer is that poets, as Wordsworth defines them, are “affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present.” The More practical answer: compared to writing, erasing feels easy.

But I am here to convince you: to erase is to write, style is the consequence of the writer’s omissions, and the writer is always plural.

To erase is to leave something else behind.

Like Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanasco even uses the form in her creative writing class at NYU (here’s the PDF of the syllabus)

the motto of Modernism, Ezra Pound’s “Make it new,” is a translation of Confucius who borrowed it from Emperor T’ang who inscribed on his bathtub “Every day make it new.” I want you to take existing poems and stories by other writers and make these works new. How? By making them your own. How? By imitating their styles.

She points to Allen Ginsberg, who was very open about his influences:

Ginsberg shows us that by imitating the style of other writers, as well as by resisting them, a writer develops his or her own style. Erasure is simply an exaggerated form of writing. “We say that an author is original when we cannot trace the hidden transformation that others underwent in his mind,” Valery wrote. “What a man does either repeats or refutes what someone else has done—repeats it in other tones, refines or amplifies or simplifies it.” But instead of concealing or denying their influences, erasurists acknowledge that they have come from somewhere, not nowhere, and make clear the chaotic process of creating art.

It’s a great piece — anybody who’s interested in Newspaper Blackout or Steal Like An Artist will enjoy it.


  1. I heard later from Jeannie that Newspaper Blackout was part of a section that had to be cut due to length. :) 

Jul 11, 2011
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Why Jean-Michel Basquiat crossed out words:

I cross out words so you will see them more: the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.

Screenshot from the great documentary, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child

Why Jean-Michel Basquiat crossed out words:

I cross out words so you will see them more: the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.

Screenshot from the great documentary, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child

Jun 10, 2011
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I think something interesting happens to language when you break it up so that the words stand alone, one after the other, and you have a moment of waiting for the next word and anticipating what it will be….it’s as if this language is like little drops of words that fall…
Brian Eno on spoken word (I kept thinking about blackout poems…)

Mar 07, 2011
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Dec 22, 2010
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Dec 19, 2010
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There's an iphone app called WordLens that translates words when you hold the iphone camera up to them, but it also has an 'erase words' option that looks a lot like your blackout poems, it's kind of cool. It's a free app and a cool concept, but maybe check it out just to make accidental blackout poems or something. :)

Yeah! I’ve been messing around with the app—if only you could select which words to erase, it would be brilliant. It’s kind of fun to just hold it in front of an article and watch it flicker and freak out and show/erase random words. Here’s a couple of screengrabs of Emily Dickinson and The New York Times:

Erasing Emily Dickinson with Word Lens. What a crazy app: Trying to get Word Lens' "erase words" feature to do my work for me:

Dec 08, 2010
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Dec 04, 2010
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Poetry is the control of context.
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