How To Write Blackout Poetry

What is Blackout Poetry?

Blackout poetry is a poetic form of creative writing which combines the select words, phrases and images of an existing text combined with a reinterpretation to form a poem. This type of poetry was first developed by American poet and founder of Wet Paint poetry press, Austin Kleon, in his ‘Newspaper Blackout’ project. It is a unique way to create poetry from the mundane and everyday found texts, books or journals.

How to Write Blackout Poetry

First, decide on the text source you would like to use for your poem – you can use existing texts such as newspaper articles, books, journals, or even websites. Carefully read through the text and look for potential words, phrases and images that could be used to shape your poem. Once you have identified the words and images that could be used, eliminate most of the text using a black marker, so that the words and phrases are highlighted. The remaining words and phrases, which should be placed strategically to form the cohesive structure of your poem, form the poem’s lyrics.

Create a Unique Narrative

Now that you have your lyrical structure, it’s time to create a unique narrative for your poem. Take a few moments to decide on the overall feeling and emotion you would like to highlight in your poem – it could be a relationship, a place, a theme, or a concept. Once you have decided on the overall emotion, use the words and phrases you identified in your text accurately and precisely to form sentences that can captivate your audience and evoke the desired emotion.

Incorporate Rhyme and Meter

Rhyme and meter are essential aspects of poetry, and blackout poetry is no exception to the rule. Incorporate rhyme into your poem by choosing words and phrases with similar endings – this will create a rhythm and make the poem more interesting to read. Ensure that the poem also follows a pattern – every line should be of the same length, and words should remain consistent in terms of character count.

Explore Literary Devices

Using literary devices will help to create a more engaging and meaningful poem. Popular types of literary devices used in blackout poetry include: alliteration, assonance, imagery, symbols, irony, and metaphor. Alliteration is the repetition of a sound or letter throughout a poem; assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound; imagery is descriptive language that implies a visual or sensory experience; symbols are words or images used to represent an idea; irony is a deviation between expectations and reality; and metaphor is a comparison of two unrelated things.

Finalise Your Poem

Once you have the skeleton structure of your poem in place and have fleshed it out, it’s time to finalise your work. Read through the poem multiple times to check for any errors and ensure there is a sense of flow and progression. Then, re-read your poem and check for any potential areas of improvement – you may think of new words or ideas that you would like to incorporate or even rearrange a line if it doesn’t sound right.

Present Your Poem

Present your poem to an audience and receive feedback. This is a great way to gain an understanding of how the poem is interpreted by those who are unfamiliar with it. After you have received feedback, incorporate different elements into your poem if desired. Then, once you’re satisfied, you’ve successfully completed your poem, and it’s ready for public viewing.

Examples to Inspire

Before you start writing, it can be helpful to look at some examples created by well-known blackout poets. The great thing about blackout poetry is that there is no wrong way to write a poem, so looking through much-acclaimed work of already established poets can give you an understanding of the craft and different ways you can approach the task of creating a poem. Some of the best examples of blackout poetry include those created by Austin Kleon’s Newspaper Blackout and those from the journal by Wern Loughon – ‘Blackout Poetry’.

Final Touches

Put the finishing touches on your poem and add any drawings, doodles or designs that make your poem truly unique. Consider adding a corresponding title or tagline that provides more context to your poem. These final touches can add an extra level of interest to your poem and give it a personal touch.

Benefits of Blackout Poetry

Blackout poetry can be a great way to reinterpret and reframe existing texts, phrases and images. It encourages you to think outside the box, giving you the freedom to explore ideas from different perspectives. It is also a great form of self-expression and it can be used to foster creativity and spark new ideas.


Once your poem is complete, it can be shared and self-published. Nowadays there are several publishing platforms and outlets that allow you to share and distribute your work. Additionally, if you want to take your poem to the next level, you could look into getting it published in a book or a magazine. This can help to spread the word and raise awareness of your poem – giving it a larger audience.

Participating in Events

Participating in events and competitions is another way to spread the word about your work. There are numerous literary festivals, workshops and competitions for blackout poetry, which provide the perfect opportunity to have your work reviewed by industry professionals and potentially be awarded for your art.

Organising Your Own Events

If you are feeling particularly entrepreneurial and motivated, another option would be to organise your own literary events or workshops. Organising your own events or workshops is a great way to network and connect with other poets, as well as share your work and gain more exposure. This could lead to opportunities such as collaborative projects and writing opportunities.

Collaboration Opportunities

Collaboration is a great way to create new and interesting works. Connecting with other poets, both locally and online, is a great way to brainstorm ideas and exchange advice and feedback. You can even join writing groups and explore different topics, share images and text sources, and discuss interpretations and literary devices.

Tools to Get Started

There are several online resources that can help to get you started, such as the blackout poetry generator by Wordnik – it allows you to generate poems from random, pre-selected text sources, as well as giving you the option to generate new ones from online news or books. Additionally, there are apps such as ‘Blackout Poetry’ and ‘Thicket’ that provide a platform to create and showcase your new or existing works.

Minnie Walters is a passionate writer and lover of poetry. She has a deep knowledge and appreciation for the work of famous poets such as William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and many more. She hopes you will also fall in love with poetry!

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