I’ve been thinking about thinking about what form I’m going to write in April, what I’ll spend my month trying and trying to learn and grow comfortable with. I’ve been reading through plenty of lists of poetic forms, looking for one that would feel like the right challenge, not feeling inspired, not feeling pulled in any one direction.
Until today. I might just be onto an idea. In last year’s Girls Write Now poetry workshop, we worked on erasure poems. I’d never written one before, hadn’t heard of the form until that day. It took me a few tries to really process the “how” of it. And today I thought it might be interesting to spend a little more time with the form. And by “little,” I mean the 30 fast-approaching days of April.
An erasure poem is a kind of “found” poem. You start with an existing text and pull out words and phrases — “erasing” the parts you don’t want to use — to create your poem. Robert Lee Brewer at Writers Digest gives a good description of both erasure and blackout poems, and also makes important points about plagiarism and crediting the author of your source text. And Robin Coste Lewis’ Self-Portrait as the Bootblack in Daguerre’s Boulevard du Temps is a wonderful example. Would that I could create something so fine.
And then I thought I should have a theme of some kind. I immediately thought of taking news articles and finding poems in them. There is so much going on that I can’t find words to talk about because it’s so ugly, so painful, so demoralizing, so devastating. Maybe taking someone else’s words and finding my voice in theirs will be a way for me to start talking about some of those things.
Naturally, it turns out that this isn’t an original thought. The New Republic published a piece last October about the rise in erasure poetry that’s been inspired by Trump’s election. The piece includes a link to some stunning erasure poems from Trump’s speeches.
So. Not original. I still like the idea, and I think I will keep liking it enough to have at it come April.
I gave it a try today. I read a piece in The New York Times about Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria, and used that as my source text. I like Lewis’ style of attribution, so I adopted and adapted it:
Addressing the Crisis
(An erasure of Daiza Aponte Torres’ “The Refugees in New York’s Hotel Rooms“)
My life upside down
my two daughters,
my home destroyed.
Hundreds of families.
We’re barely surviving.
after the storm.
We are traumatized.
No one will know
the disaster continues
Yes, I think I’ve found my 30/30 challenge. Have you found yours? What will you be working on next month? Want to join me for some erasure poems?
It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! With hundreds of folks participating, there’s more than a little something for everyone … and plenty of room for you to join in!