I’m trying to find a new way into this form, and struggling with it. I’m still feeling disappointed with each one, with the sense that each is simply a summary of the source text, and that’s really not what I want.
Today, there is a lovely piece about our poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith, in the Times. I thought that surely is find sonething there to work with … and I did, just not quite exactly what is had in mind.
Smith, incidentally, writes erasure poems. About the poems the article’s author says: “The structure of the erasure poem embodies [the] lack of resolution. There’s an unspoken argument between the person who wrote the original words and the person who deleted them, repurposing what remains in the service of a new agenda and inverting the power dynamic.” I loved reading that. It gives me so much to think about.
Still a ton more work to do. Good thing it’s only April 10th and I have plenty of days left to muddle through!
(An erasure of Times article about Tracy K. Smith.)
One night she dreamed,
she imagines and responds.
The meaning, this wish —
that instant of common understanding.
The journey is open to interpretation,
focusing on being reminded
of places where we have something
very clear, compelling
The meditative state
can be an antidote.
More than anything,
silence yields clarity,
a shortcut to hones conversation.
Where our culture is most sore,
Be open, listen. Be curious.
You want to unsettle something,
what you think you’re certain of,
how that’s not enough.
It’s National Poetry Month! Every year, I choose a specific form and try to write a poem a day in that form. This year, I am trying erasure poems and I want to use news articles as my source texts. I’ve practiced a few times, and it’s already feeling difficult! We’ll see how it goes.
Here’s an edited version of the Wiki definition of this form:
Erasure Poetry: a form of found poetry created by erasing words from an existing text in prose or verse and framing the result on the page as a poem. Erasure is a way to give an existing piece of writing a new set of meanings, questions, or suggestions. It lessens the trace of authorship but requires purposeful decision making. What does one want done to the original text? Does a gesture celebrate, denigrate, subvert, or efface the source completely? One can erase intuitively by focusing on musical and thematic elements or systematically by following a specific process regardless of the outcome.
Also, Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest has some good points to add about ethics and plagiarism:
Quick note on ethics: There is a line to be drawn between erasure poems and plagiarism. If you’re not erasing more than 50% of the text, then I’d argue you’re not making enough critical decisions to create a new piece of art. Further, it’s always good form to credit the original source for your erasures.