Friends, are you feeling there's a "hole" in your artistic life today because for a month you were writing a poem a day? Fear not! Here's a prompt to get you through till bedtime. Try making an erasure poem.
Yesterday, I wrote a post that showed an erasure poem I "wrote" — or, perhaps more properly, "found" — based on a text by fiction writer Erin McReynolds (it's kind of a long story . . . go to yesterday's post for more details).
I also said in that post that I wasn't sure if the piece should be called an "erasure poem" or a "visual found poem" or an "altered-page poem." The name "erasure poem" just seemed to be so focused on removal as opposed to creation, while "altered-page poem" seemed so connected to the mixed-media art of altering books as objets d'art in themselves (see Tom Phillips's website humument.com for a glorious, brilliant example of an altered book, or "treated book," as Phillips calls it). The alternate "visual found poem" seemed most accurate but it's so blah. After some googling and researching, I've settled on "erasure poem" as the most useful term because it focuses on the process more than the product, and erasure as process is the exciting part of this poetic mode.
Okay, then, here are some examples of erasure poems. The top two are from my last NaPoWriMo post, written by my poem-a-day buddy Catherine Pritchard Childress and me using the same source text (an expansion of the McReynolds text . . . even more backstory in that post).
The bottom two are from the doyenne, the queen, the champ, of American erasure poets: the artist and writer carrieola or Carrie Arizona. The pseudonym carrieola is her moniker at the network deviantArt. She used the pseudonym Carrie Arizona in my feature of her erasure poems in the blog; I talk at some length in that feature about this piece, on the left, called "Beautiful Leech."
The piece on the right was featured in a May 2011 art show in Tucson. This piece started out much like the one on the left, an erasure poem altered from a book page, but was then altered or treated further as a collage for the art show.
There are many more beautiful erasure poems in carrieola's deviantArt gallery, such as the georgeous erasure poem titled "The Sea." Many more erasure poems can be seen in her gallery; here is the section of her gallery devoted to poetry (including more traditionally written poems).
So, where's the bleep-bleepin' prompt, you might be saying by now?
Here goes . . . create an erasure poem in the vein, in the mode, of carrieola. (Obviously, the poems above by Catherine and me are very derivative of carrieola's work.) Pick a source text (hints: find something that has interesting words, and pick a text that has a fair amount of leading, i.e., space between lines). In Catherine's and my examples above, you can see that because the lines are tighter together the visual rendition can feel cramped.
Wave Books has created a VERY cool found-poetry generator. This will save you from having to find your own source text, and how the generator works is a LOT of fun. The only thing I don't like about it is that in your finished erasure poem, the erased words and phrases are completely invisible. You also can't make cool visuals like carrieola's. What you could do, though, is use the generator to figure out what the poem will be, then go back and type out the original text and alter it visually. Making the visual artifact is just as much fun as altering the text.
Okay, that's it. Post your completed erasure poem here in a comment below or put it on your own site and leave that web address below. Have FUN!
Comments below, please? Ingat.
P.S. Thanks to j. i. kleinberg, blogger at chocolate is a verb, for telling me about Sue Boynton's excellent resources on found poetry. It's worth combing through this material for great links to all kinds of cool schtuff.
Also, The Found Poetry Review has a collection of prompts you might find helpful.
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