When I think of art, I think of visual art. Drawings, paintings, etchings. Things we look at. That is, of course, a very short-sighted approach. True art encompasses an ever-expanding array of creative expressions. As I journey through the world of art, I’m often led to different places, places I never expected to go.
This has become especially true in recent weeks as I’ve explored mixed media art. Just as mixed media artists work with a variety of different materials and techniques, they also work with an astounding variety of ideas. I now have a “scrap bin” where I keep odds and ends of papers, fabrics, calendars, magazines and anything else I lay my hands on, and in a similar fashion I’m also filling my head with scraps of knowledge, bits and pieces of information gleaned from different sources, and fun little facts that I’ll probably never use but which are fun to collect all the same.
Today’s post is not really all that much about visual art, although it’s based on an art journal page I recently completed. Through this project I’ve been led away from visual art, along an interesting path of poetic art. This, my friends, is an example of what’s called black-out poetry.
It begins with a text. This happens to be two pages from Frankenstein. The project idea — and the text print-out — is from Let’s Make Art.
The idea, as you can probably tell from the illustration, is to black-out words you’re not using in your poem, keeping only those you want. Sounds interesting, sounds fun… but it’s actually a bit of a challenge, at least, for me it was.
Although I love poetry and have written and published poetry in the past, doing this “black-out” version was quite an experience. I think it’s partly because I have a problem thinking of any words as unnecessary, unwanted, or for the purposes of black-out poetry, useless.
Of course, black-out poetry isn’t so much about making a statement, creating a poetic masterpiece, or sharing personal thoughts. It’s more about finding something that’s hidden in plain sight, cutting through the noise surrounding us to focus on single thoughts. It’s about minimalism, about finding meaning in small things.
So without further ado, here is my first attempt at black-out poetry:
In ignorance, early philosophers
Witnessed a storm behind the mountains.
Thunder burst with frightful loudness.
The heavens remained,
Watching with curiosity and delight.
A stream of fire
Light… vanished… disappeared
But entirely destroyed.
This last stroke… completed.
As I said, definitely not a literary masterpiece. Does it mean anything? I don’t know. But it was an interesting way to spend my morning “art time” in the studio, something quite different from my usual routine.
Want to give black-out poetry a try, too? Of course I did a bit of browsing online before completing my first poem, so you might want to check out a few of the resources I found.
This is an app you can download — free — for mobile devices. I installed it on my Samsung View but I didn’t use it for creating my poem. I’ve taken a look at it, and it might be interesting. I haven’t quite figured out how to navigate though. If you give it a try, have fun!
This site sounded intriguing, and in the end I did use it — for convenience. I was actually hoping to find a site that would allow me to enter my text — this one does — and would then guide me in choosing the right words — this one doesn’t. It does present your text in a large, clear format, and makes it easy for you to black-out words and see what’s left.
Yes, I wanted to find a generator — a web application that could quickly and easily do for me what I wasn’t sure how to do for myself. Unfortunately, although this generator might have done that, I couldn’t figure out how to use it. Good luck, and if you figure it out, let me know!
I’m calling this “Poemify” even though that’s not the name of the site. This is another “generator” created by the same fellow who created the one I couldn’t get to work. It’s a “successor” to the original, and it does allow a user to paste text and hit the POEMIFY button. I tried, but the results were not good. What should I expect from an online generator, right?
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quite often behind the times, especially when it comes to technological gadgets, gizmos, and applications. It seems that black-out poetry has been around for quite a while, so chances are you’ve probably heard of it before, and maybe you’ve composed a bit of black-out poetry of your own.
If, however, you’re like me — curious, interested, but unsure of how to start — I highly recommend this helpful article:
He suggests black-out poetry as suitable for Grades 6 – 8, and he gives simple, step-by-step advice on finding and extracting meaning from the text we’re using. This could be a great project for a family art time with children in this grade range.
Indeed, art can lead us down many different pathways. It introduces us to new ideas, invites us to explore possibilities, and challenges us to try things a little out of the ordinary. I’ve enjoyed this black-out poetry experiment, and I’m glad to add this idea to my “repertoire” of art journaling themes.