6 Things to Know About Erasure Poetry

1. Anyone can make an erasure poem

You need not consider yourself a “writer” or “poet” to make an erasure poem. Erasure artists come in all ages and are of varied interests and backgrounds. No training is required.

If you can write, you can erase.

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2. Unusual books make for great erasure poems

You can make an erasure poem from any block of text, but you may find unusual, outdated, or otherwise obscure books make for the most interesting poetry.

A few source texts Minneapolis Erasures workshop participants have found to be fertile ground for erasure poetry: a wine-tasting guide, a ballet dancer’s body book, a book of creation myths, an ancient Greek art history book, a Christianity self-help book, and a book on female explorers.

Great places to look for erasure source texts include the withdrawal cart at your local library, Little Free Libraries, garage sales, free boxes, Goodwill, or your grandmother’s bookshelf.

A MASTER PLAN

3. A variety of tools can be used to make erasure poems

  • Whiteout
  • Sharpies
  • Paint
  • Ink
  • Mud
  • Watercolor
  • Chalk
  • Charcoal
  • Eraser
  • Scissors
  • Pen
  • Pencil
  • Tape
  • Photoshop
  • Nail polish

 

4. There is no such thing as a “bad” erasure poem

Did you smudge ink on the margin? Great texture. Drip paint on a word you had intended to preserve? Oh well. Get to the end of the page and see that you erased the text in its entirety? You have made a poem of silence.

SILENCE

5. Erasure poetry is not destroying books

In fact, it’s just the opposite—it’s keeping them alive, as dynamic and evolving, awake to the present moment and waiting to see what happens next. Yes, you may be disinclined to take a bottle of Whiteout to your beloved copy of To The Lighthouse (though it’s doubtful Ms. Woolf would disapprove), but engaging with language is what books are for. An erasure poem is a love letter to language, and is composed with deep respect for the written word.

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6. Erasure poems should be shared

Like all literature, erasure poetry happens between people. Sit your roommate down and read your erasure poem aloud to him, frame it and hang it on your wall, give it to your sister for her birthday. If you live in the Twin Cities, come share your erasure poem and make another at the next Minneapolis Erasures workshop, free and open to the public.

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Happy erasing!

 

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