Where the sidewalk reads, in which I make a poem out of trash
November 11, 2021
The only possibility was
buzzing and festive.
Before, it was
A tiny voice
inside the street noise
Spooky, right? Above is a blackout poem, also called an erasure. I learned how to make this kind of thing from Austin Kleon's blog, and here, my source is a page of a paperback that had fallen apart; it was blowing around a sidewalk in New York. Before I made the "new" work, I had no idea which book Chapter 101 had come from, but after googling a chunk of the original text, I discovered it was a novel by James Patterson. It's either Black Market (1986) or a slightly rewritten version, Black Friday (2000). I vote for Black Market because the pages look old and foxed. The original Kirkus review said it's an "abysmally dumb terrorist novel whose plot would embarrass a Superman movie." Ouch. "Chapter 101" makes a fine title, though.
The Poetry Friday roundup is over at Matt Forrest Esenwine’s site, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.
Updated to add: the Guardian just looked at erasure poetry, too. "Especially when challenging dust-thick prejudice and received opinion, it has the potential to be transformative." See "Blanked verse: the power of erasure poetry," by Carol Rumens.
Oh, WOW what a review! I don't care for James Patterson novels, but I can't say that even I'd be that... succinct... I LOVE your blackout poem, though! I should try a novel page; last time I did a nonfiction book, but you get much wilder topics with fiction, I think.
Posted by: tanita | November 11, 2021 at 05:32 PM
Tanita, I’d love to see what you create! Let me know. That review minces no words…
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | November 11, 2021 at 05:41 PM
Well, at least something great came out of the novel, ha! Love this - eerie and thought-provoking.
Posted by: Matt Forrest Esenwine | November 12, 2021 at 08:46 AM
It is fun to read what comes "buzzing and festive", better than the review you found!
Posted by: Linda Baie | November 12, 2021 at 11:25 AM
I LOVE that your found poem was make on a page from a found book! Chapter 101 is a fantastic title.
I'm getting ready to start a blackout poem project that uses fabric and thread. Stay tuned!
Posted by: Mary Lee | November 12, 2021 at 05:05 PM
That's so cool! Finding a book page blowing around and turning into a poem...perfect for a Poetry Friday share. And, I love that you were able to narrow down what book it is. Isn't it amazing what we can do with a few keystrokes these days? A gem, for sure.
Posted by: Linda Mitchell | November 12, 2021 at 07:23 PM
I agree that you have found something good in Mr. Patterson's work. He might be thinking that novel is long forgotten!
Posted by: janice scully | November 13, 2021 at 08:20 AM
Matt, thanks for stopping by and for hosting the Poetry Friday roundup! It's a deadline that gets me writing every week.
Linda B., it was a fun find. That review! Ooof. I doubt it affected sales, though.
Mary Lee, I can't WAIT to see what you're doing. Perhaps I've seen a glimpse on Instagram?
Linda M., it is indeed so crazy that I can google and find the book in seconds. From what I read, I thought it was perhaps a mystery written for children. I was surprised it was Patterson.
Janice, ha! Slate said, "As the scrappy runner-up to PW, Kirkus has long had a reputation for lively, unpredictable reviews that are sometimes outlandishly harsh." Yep!
Posted by: Susan Thomsen | November 13, 2021 at 09:26 AM
I have long been a fan of black out poetry and erasure poetry. Austin Kleon (great name) set me on my way and I remain ever grateful. Love that you found your words out on the streets of NYC. You have re-energized the words with your considered choices. Well done Susan.
Posted by: Alan j Wright | November 14, 2021 at 01:24 AM
Alan, yes, I am so grateful to Austin Kleon, too! Thanks for dropping by.
Posted by: Susan | November 14, 2021 at 08:13 AM
Susan, you made magic with the first page of Chapter 101. What a fun post! I love "the only possibility was buzzing and festive." I love how found poems find unusual combinations of words. It's an intriguing phrase and poem.
Posted by: Denise Krebs | November 15, 2021 at 06:05 AM
Denise, thank you for your kind words! The book might not have been reviewed well, but I found plenty to work with. I like the surprise of found poems, too. As you're saying, the combinations of words are intriguing--and usually not even close to something I would have come up with on my own.
Posted by: Susan | November 15, 2021 at 08:44 AM
I love erasure poetry. This is brilliant.
Posted by: Jone | November 15, 2021 at 10:11 PM
Jone, thank you! Isn't erasure poetry fun to work on? I am fascinated by it. A super cool one (and heartbreaking) is Nicole Sealey's "'Pages 1-4,' an excerpt from The Ferguson Report: An Erasure." https://poets.org/poem/pages-1-4-excerpt-ferguson-report-erasure
Posted by: Susan | November 16, 2021 at 09:41 AM