Blackout Poet – Austin Kleon

March 9, 2011

I’ve been collecting ideas here and there for an overdue acknowledgement of poetry in our reading . . . plenty of poetry we can chat about one day soon. I discovered this more unorthodox approach to the poem today and just had to share. I love it when someone plays outside the lines!

Austin Kleon was a writing student suffering from writer’s block when he was inspired to take a black marker and stroke out words in an old newspaper. The words he chose to leave visible became his poetry. The hundreds of poems he created while commuting to work on the bus have been collected in the volume, Newspaper Blackout.

I have a few favourites (many available to read or even buy as posters on Austin’s website) but this one is particularly sweet. Especially when you read its source below.

How it works: I will give you whatever you want for all the cartwheels you're doing for me.

Kleon’s personal comment about his poem:  “How It Works” is part of my ongoing series of Newspaper Blackout Poems: poetry made by taking an article from The New York Times and blacking it out with a Sharpie marker, leaving only a few choice words behind. It’s rare that I find poetry in the business section, but this one came from an article about hedge fund investing. Like many of my poems, it’s about my wife.

Do visit the website and feel inspired. You never know – a rainy weekend ahead might involve a Sharpie and the recycled weekend papers!

Here is a PBS interview with Austin Kleon if you’d like to see him in action.


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