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How to Write Blackout Poetry: Tips, Examples, & Ideas

If you’re working on a poetry journal, you’ll definitely want to consider incorporating blackout poetry into its pages. It offers a unique challenge to writers and frankly, is really fun!

Wondering how to write blackout poetry? Or even what blackout poetry is?!

We’re so glad you asked!

The Basics of Blackout Poetry

Creating blackout poetry, sometimes called erasure poetry, involves selecting a source text, gathering your tools, and identifying interesting words to form a unique and meaningful poem.

Choosing Your Source Text

Selecting the right source text is crucial. You can use an old book, a magazine, or even a newspaper article. The key is to find a text rich with engaging and descriptive language.

Start by flipping through the pages and skimming for texts that catch your eye.

It’s helpful to choose material that resonates with your interests or emotions. This can make the poem feel more personal and impactful.

Additionally, texts with a wide variety of word choices will give you more options for creating nuanced poetry.

Carefully cut out your selected passage and paste it into your poetry journal.

Tools You’ll Need

Now that your page is ready, you’ll need a few basic tools to create your blackout poetry.

A black marker or black sharpie is essential for blocking out unwanted words. You can also use colored markers if you want to add artistic elements to your poem.

Grab a pencil for lightly circling potential words before committing to blacking out others. This allows for adjustments without permanently altering the page.

Having a quiet space with good lighting can also be beneficial. This ensures you can clearly read the page of text and thoughtfully choose the words you want to highlight.

Finding the Right Words

Identifying the key words in your text is an art form.

Start by skimming through the original text to spot interesting words or phrases. Write a list of words that stand out to you.

Tips for Finding Key Words:

  • Focus on nouns and verbs to create a strong image.
  • Choose emotionally charged words.
  • Look for words that together tell a story or convey a specific feeling.

Next, think about how these words can connect to create a coherent theme or message. Look for verbs, adjectives, and nouns that can build vivid imagery or express deep emotions.

It’s often helpful to revise your choices, erasing and adding words as needed until you feel satisfied. The goal is to create a compelling narrative from the words left unmarked.

Crafting Your Blackout Poem

As stated above, you’ll begin by selecting the key words and phrases that resonate with you from the original text. Then, you’ll carefully redact the unwanted words to reveal your new poem.

Here’s a simplified example of this exercise in practice.

Marking the Key Words

Start by skimming through the text to find compelling words and phrases. Look for words that stand out and resonate with you.

Use a pencil or light marker to box or underline these words.


Original text: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
Key words: "quick," "jumps," "lazy"

Redacting the Unwanted Text

Now, start redacting the unwanted text. This step is essential in turning the original text into a new poem.

You can use methods like:

  • Black marker: Completely black out the words you don’t need.
  • Lines: Draw lines through the unwanted text, ensuring the key words remain visible and unaltered.

Be creative with how you redact:

  • Patterned Redactions: Create shapes or patterns to make the blackout poetry visually appealing.
  • Themes: Keep the theme consistent with your key words for coherence.

Make sure the words that remain form a coherent and meaningful message.


Original text: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
Redacted text: 
	"Quick __  _________  jumps _______ lazy  ___"

Revealing Your New Poem

After redacting the unwanted text, your new poem begins to take shape. Clean up any remaining marks and ensure your poem is legible.

Consider the following:

  • Readability: Make sure your poem is easy to read. Avoid clutter or overlapping marks.
  • Final Touches: You can add illustrations or decorations that complement your poem.
  • Visual Appeal: Enhance the poem’s visual appearance for an aesthetically pleasing final product.

Your final poem should be a standalone piece—a blend of text and art that represents your voice.


New poem:
"Quick jumps lazy"

Styling and Final Touches

When creating blackout poetry, adding personal touches such as visual styles and sharing your work on social media can enhance its appeal. This section will help you refine your poem’s aesthetics and maximize your online presence.

Perfecting Your Aesthetics

Considering choosing a theme for your new poem. This could be based on your favorite books, current mood, or even current events.

Consider the background color and font size of the words you leave visible. A bold, contrasting background can make your words stand out, while varying font sizes can add emphasis to key phrases.

Adding drawings, doodles, or designs can make your poem unique.

Floral designs? Abstract shapes? Such additions can amplify the theme of your poem.

Some people prefer a minimalist approach, using only simple lines to connect words, which is completely fine too!

When blacking out the text, be sure to balance it visually.

Try not to cluster all bold words in one part of the page. Spread them out to create a harmonious look that isn’t too congested.

Publishing on Social Media

When you publish your blackout poetry on social media, think of how it will appear on different platforms. Instagram thrives on visual content, so high-quality images of your poem will perform better.

Use relevant hashtags like #BlackoutPoetry or #ErasurePoetry to gain visibility. Tag poets or poetry communities to engage with a broader audience.

Make the post engaging. Add a caption that includes the poem’s background story or your inspiration behind it.

Consider using Instagram Stories or Reels to show a behind-the-scenes look at your process. This creates a more personal connection with your audience.

Finally, interact with comments and messages. Engagement can boost your visibility and help you connect with other poetry enthusiasts.

Getting Inspired

Finding inspiration for your blackout poetry can come from studying the works of established poets, overcoming creative obstacles, and trying out different techniques.

Learn From the Masters

One excellent way to get inspired is by exploring the works of masters in blackout poetry.

Austin Kleon, known for his newspaper blackout poems, provides a great starting point. His technique involves blacking out words in newspapers to create a new narrative from the remaining text.

By examining his works, you can see how to handle themes and spot patterns from ordinary texts. Analyzing how he juxtaposes phrases can spark your creativity and offer fresh ideas for your own poems.

Tyler Knott Gregson also offers inspirational examples of how blackout poetry can express deep, emotional themes in a minimalist form.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is an inevitable part of the creative process, but there are effective methods to overcome it. Start by changing your perspective.

Instead of approaching the text with the goal of creating a perfect poem, enjoy the process of discovery. Skim your chosen text to find stand-out phrases or intriguing words.

Another technique is to step away from your project and engage in a different creative activity, like drawing or photography, which can help reset your mind. Revisiting your poem after a break can often lead to new insights and ideas.

The best part is that taking a break allows for subconscious processing, which can often result in unexpected inspiration.

Experimenting With Different Styles

Experimenting with different styles can open up a new way of thinking and creating.

Try using various texts such as old books, articles, or digital content. A digital blackout poem created using online tools and texts can offer a fresh medium and broaden your creative horizons.

Exploring layouts and designs is another great way to personalize your poem.

Incorporate crayons, markers, or other art supplies to add visual elements. Some poets create intricate designs around their chosen words, adding an additional layer of meaning and artistic expression.

Trying out these different ways of expressing yourself can keep your process dynamic and exciting, ensuring that every poem you create feels unique and inspired.

How to Write Blackout Poetry: Tips, Examples, & Ideas

Now that you know how to write blackout poetry, where will you start? and when?!

We can’t wait to hear all about it!

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