Saturday, April 07, 2012

PETTY THEFT -- a newspaper blackout poem



for fun
fickle income

It was just the only option we

feel really weird

it took

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2012

Poem #7, National Poetry Month 2012

I never should have let myself wander into the poetry section at Barnes and Noble yesterday.

I walked out with three new books: THE BEST OF IT by Kay Ryan, WHERE I LIVE by Maxine Kumin, and NEWSPAPER BLACKOUT by Austin Kleon.

If I accidentally start writing more like Kay Ryan and Maxine Kumin, I somehow think that won't be a bad thing. 

And newspaper blackout poems? Those are just plain FUN!

In 2010, I tried a newspaper blackout poem, but after reading Kleon's suggestions for composing, and more of his poems, I decided I would try again. 

Writing a newspaper blackout poem takes a lot of trimming back. (This reminds me of Janet Wong's advice here, or Susan Taylor Brown's advice here.)

Writing a newspaper blackout poem means being open to surprises. This article was about a band, and I wound up with a poem that sounds like a punk kid who, after getting caught stealing something, wavers between, "It was an accident!" "I didn't have a choice!" and "I know it was wrong...but it was also kind of fun..."

Murder yesterday, theft today. What will tomorrow bring?

Cathy, at Merely Day By Day, is joining me in a poem a day this month. Other daily poem writers include Amy at The Poem Farm, Linda at TeacherDance, Donna at Mainely Write, Laura at Writing the World for Kids (daily haiku), Liz at Liz in Ink (daily haiku), Sara at Read Write Believe (daily haiku)...and YOU?


  1. I use Newspaper Blackout with my students. They love it. Go on you tube there is a fantastic trailer for the book : o )

  2. I tried to do a Newspaper Blackout poem just a few days ago but it was a fail.... Maybe I should try again too, and maybe I need a bit of that resource you mentioned by Austin Kleon. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. I have never tried a Newspaper Blackout poem but I will soon - with students. Thank you for the idea.

  4. No, you shouldn't wander into B & N. I can't go near Tattered Cover, like Carol does-it's just too tempting. This is terrific, Mary Lee-what fun. I've never seen it before, so will have to try, maybe tomorrow in the Sunday paper? When I freewrite I am often surprised at the outcome, so maybe this is kind of like that? I do like the back & forth feelings of the person speaking.

  5. I have tried blackout poems before but have never had much success. I'm willing to give it another try. Hmmm, maybe it needs to be an episode of Poetry Can'ts? :)

    Love Kay Ryan!

  6. Love this idea! Thanks for sharing. I tried the Book Spine poems with my students last week and they had loads of fun creating them. This should inspire them too!


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