Wednesday, May 2, 2012

POST - NaPoWriMo Prompt ... Erasure Poetry


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.


48 comments:

Laurie Kolp said...

I did it, I did it! What a challenge, what a sense of accomplishment. Thanks, Vince! Here's the link:

http://lkharris-kolp.blogspot.com/2012/05/sea-man.html

meenarose said...

I just "found" the finish line:

http://meenarose.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/prompted-wednesdays-a-found-poem-for-a-found-prompt/

chromapoesy.com said...

Oh, I can't wait! I'll be back tomorrow with a piece and am leaving a link to Project Gutenberg Australia another place to get prose source material without concerns about copyright infringement. http://gutenberg.net.au/plusfifty-a-m.html. That Wave Books site is uber cool. See you all soon, looking forward to making the rounds to read.

Brian Miller said...

oh these are just frickin cool man...i love the aritistic examples that you have given...props to laurie for sending me over...

chromapoesy.com said...

Calyx of Held, my first erasure poem http://chromapoesy.com/2012/05/03/calyx-of-held/ thank you!

Andrea Boltwood said...

Very cool, Laurie! :) I love how you "waved" out the words!

Vince Gotera said...

Cool, Meena. I need to go over and look at it. "Talk" to you later.

Laurie Kolp said...

Thanks, Andrea!

cynthia Atkins said...

Thanks Vince, have never tried this form, but love the possibilities.
Very cool!

Vince Gotera said...

Friends, my own (new) erasure poem is done. Please take a peek. Thanks.

Vince Gotera said...

Brian, did you try one? I see below that Laurie finished one. Hope you do. And if you do, come back and tell us here. Thanks for your reply.

Vince Gotera said...

Laurie, I just left you a comment at your blog. I agree with Andrea ... the waves are a great idea!

Vince Gotera said...

Give it a try, Cynthia! Just finished mine. Link below. If you do try it, come back here and tell us! Thanks for your reply.

Vince Gotera said...

Hi, Anna. Blogger finally let me in to respond to this. But I've already replied at your blog. Anyway, good poem. I hope you keep playing with this form.

Vince Gotera said...

Thanks for the Gutenberg.au link. I'll check it out.

Vince Gotera said...

Oh, I see! These are works that have no known author. Very cool for erasure. Thanks again!

Vince Gotera said...

Oh, wait. I see (again)! The first few items are works with unknown authors. Cool still.

Victoria said...

Just learned of this form and was directed here by Anna Montgomery. Can't wait to try it. Thank you!

Semaphore said...

Your compositional method is just as exciting as the final version, almost artistic. Have you seen Jonathan Safran Foer's "Tree of Code", an actual artistic book that is an erasure of "Street of Crocodiles"? An amazing objet.

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