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Blackout Poetry

Objective: It is a remarkable experience when art connects with language and incorporates text. That could mean a lot of things from writing and illustrating a graphic novel,  creating projects inspired by your favorite children’s books, graffiti art,  or in the case of this week’s lesson… creating a piece of art that quite literally uses the written word. From a toddler scribbling/ coloring over an old magazine, to a skillful artist creating an intricate illustration on top a page of literature, this form of art can be adapted to any age and any skill level.

  • Pages with words: magazines, newspapers, children’s books no longer in use, or my personal favorite- old, classic novels or books of poetry where the pages are weathered or even falling apart
  • Materials for drawing including a sharpie


    • Select and rip out a page from your book. Read it through and write down words or phrases you are drawn to on a blank piece of paper. Make edits or add additional connecting words to create a new poem (or “re-purpose” an old page of poetry to make a new one).
    • Directly on the page, boldly box the words you have selected with a Sharpie.
    • At this point, what you do next depends on the look you’re going for. You could simply black out everything that is not one of the selected words and call it a day. Your remaining readable text has created a brand new piece of poetry. OR…. get creative and sketch in a few images or symbols that relate to your chosen words. Don’t just draw in the margins, but rather directly on top of the words.


Extra: We don’t typically encourage our children to “alter” books but in our opinion, this is a brilliant way for kids to creative with the added bonus of teaching them about the notion of “re-purposing.” Grab a book they’ve outgrown and allow them to fill the pages with drawings, collages, photos, etc… Line the preexisting pages with decorative paper, magazine clippings, or newspapers. Give them the challenge of creating a page per day. Use prompts if that helps. One MMoA art student has been at this all week and is showing no signs of stopping.

Extra Extra: Author and artist, Austin Kleon offered a TEDx Talk back in 2012 where he traced the evolving history of blackout poetry back 250 years through modern day. He himself uses it to help overcome writer’s block. You can view it here: