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Redacted Poetry 501: How to Make it R.A.I.N. Redacted Poetry

To create redacted or blackout poetry, you must first get comfortable with the concept of destroying text. Deliberate. Unapologetic. Removal of words someone poured their heart and soul into. Deciding what to remove can seem daunting when staring at a page full of text- like packing up your three bedroom house in the country and downsizing to a 300 sq. ft. flat in the city.

Redacted poetry is a series of decisions that eventually lead to a new life. It's more about focusing on the key words that craft the new message and removing the clutter and background noise so they can be heard clearly. As you continue to practice the poetic art of redaction, you'll find methods and develop your own approach that fits your creative process. But, for now, you can try my R.A.I.N. Redacted Poetry method for unleashing your redacted poetry flow. In this example, we'll use an excerpt of text from my book, Redacted Poetry Journal: Create Blackout Poetry by Destroying the Classics (ISBN: 9781725965553).

Please note that there is no one way to create redacted poetry. I look forward to your thoughts and comments on how you create art and poetry through redacting written text. Feel free to use whichever parts of my method work for you—and blackout the rest.

On your mark(er). Get Set. REDACT!

Here’s what you’ll need… whatever you want! No, seriously. If you want to use pens, pencils, markers, paint, scissors, tape; it’s up to you. I tend to take the minimalist approach and use a pencil, black art pen or marker (that doesn’t bleed). The good news is that there are no “rules” you have to follow. Try different materials and supplies to find what works best for you. Faber Castell Pens are my favorite markers for redacted poetry. I've tried a handful of other permanent markers but found too often that the fumes were too intense after a few minutes or they bled through multiple pages. At a minimum you need text of some sort (like my book) and a writing utensil. These are my go to's:

Let's Make it R.A.I.N. Redacted Poetry!

  • READ: Take a curious look over the page before you begin to read through it word for word. Be on the lookout for any words that jump right off of the page, or really resonate with you. You’re looking for an anchor- a main idea or subject that you can hold on to and expand on for your blackout poem. Identifying your anchor word creates clarity and perspective for the poem’s tone, and theme. Relating your poem to the message of the original text is not important, nor necessary. Typically the most beautiful works I’ve created have carried a completely unrelated meaning compared to the original text.

  • ANCHOR: Now that you have your anchor word, read the entire page from top to bottom. Proceed to circle any word that connects to your anchor word with a pencil. Make sure the words you circle are words that strike a chord within you. Refrain from circling more than two consecutive words.

  • INVENTORY: For this step you can either work straight out of the circled text, or for clarity, take out a separate sheet of paper and list out all the words you’ve circled in the exact same order that they have occurred on the page. This is very important. The arrangement of the words in a blackout poem must not change. As you’re reviewing your selected words.

  • NIX: From the list or circled text, piece the words together in order top to bottom. Since blackout poems use the existing text, you will not be able to easily link a work from the bottom of the page to the top. Creatively, you can always create arrows or other visual ways not following the traditional flow, however, this often leads to confusion by the reader and dilutes the message. As you’re piecing together your poem, feel free to eliminate entire words or portions of words (e.g. -ed, re-, -ing, de-) if it better crafts your message. With your final words chosen, return to the original text and “nix” the rest to uncover your blackout poem. You can use a marker, pen or pencil, depending on the visual look you’re after.

TIP: You can always return to the original text page if you find yourself stuck at this step. You might just find the right word waiting for you.

For those wanting to amplify their blackout poem and connect visual with literal meaning. Apply some artistic styling to your “R.A.I.N.” poem and elevate to a “R.A.I.N.E.D.” work of art:

  • EMPHASIZE: On the original text; circle, box, or highlight the words you’ve chosen to survive as your blackout poem. By visually emphasizing the words you feel are most significant to your poem, you enhance the emotional effect of your prose.

  • DECORATE: Blackout poems do not have to be black. Use other materials, mediums, illustrations, colors, and effects to create a true work of art.

Try Your Hand at Redacted Poetry! Grab a newspaper, magazine, or book and get redacting! Black it out. Tear it up. Color it in. Follow my "R.A.I.N."/“R.A.I.N.E.D.” Redacted Poetry framework or find your own approach. Your only objective is to be expressive; whatever that means to you. If you’re open to sharing your work, I’ve love to “like” them on social and connect with you. Please tag me and share how you’ve used this journal to create something more by making something less.

Cheers to Creativity!


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