To Apologize

I didn’t think I’d be able to make a poem tonight. My level of exhaustion has hit critical mass, and nothing creative was happening or likely to happen. I’ve lost count of how many source texts I sent through. Oy.

But finally I’m here. This poem does some of the things I’ve been trying to do all month, but it also doesn’t quite get where I thought I was headed. So much work still to do!

To Apologize
(An erasure from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: “You are in the dark, in the car…”)

You are watching the black-tarred street
Swallowed by speed.
He tells you, you think —
you are being tested.
You turn off the car, remain behind the wheel.
Why do you care?
You feel your own body wince.
Everything pauses.
Yes, oh yes.
I am so, so sorry.


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.

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Washington International School
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