(Update: Since writing this tutorial I’ve released a book of blackout poetry called, Hidden Messages of Hope. Click here to pick up a copy.)
The point of Make Blackout Poetry has always been to encourage others to make their own blackout poetry and share it with others. Ever since I began making blackout poetry in 2011 people have been asking me how they can do it on their own. I’ve explained the basic idea of it to others over email and in person, but have never written down my process.
Check out the five step process that I’ve created for making blackout poetry that anyone can do. Feel free to share this online or print it out for your own purposes.
Step 1: Words
The most crucial element for making blackout poetry is the need for some text. I prefer old or used books, but others object to the destruction of literature. I like to think of it as repurposing! If you can’t bring yourself to use a book, grab a newspaper, magazine or any found text that you don’t mind “repurposing”.
When choosing a book I always flip through the pages and see what kinds of words the author has used throughout the book that catch my attention. I’m drawn to words like “love”, “life”, “death”, etc. Choose the kind of text that has words that jump off the page to you.
Step 2: Supplies
Now that you’ve selected what text you’re going to use for your blackout poem you’re going to need some supplies. Thankfully, blackout poetry can be an inexpensive art form. All you really need is a marker. I prefer Sharpies, not because they sponsor me. (But hey, that’s not a bad idea!)
1 Ultra Fine Point Sharpie
1 Fine Point Sharpie
1 Magnum Sharpie
Black is a great color to start with, but feel free to mix and match colors based on your preference.
Step 3: Work Space
You have your text. You have your supplies. Now if you just had the space. This might not seem that important, but if you’re like me and need to focus, this step is important. It might be a coffee shop, a desk in your room, or even your kitchen table — wherever it is, make sure you have enough space to work and enough peace to focus.
When I first started making blackout poetry I used my kitchen table, but I started working from home about 6 months later and decided to create multiple work spaces. I now have a desk where I take care of my 9–5 and a small table to make blackout poetry. Right next to the table sits a four-tier shelf with all of my supplies. You might not need much room or even a shelf, but if you continue with any sort of artistic endeavor, you’ll need a place to store your supplies.
Not everyone can focus with music playing. Personally, I can’t if there’s lyrics involved. I’ve found I’m most productive while listening to instrumental music. I like Chopin, but I’m a fan of bands like Explosions In The Sky, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, etc. when I’m working, writing or making blackout poetry.
If you’re interested, go to Spotify and browse the playlists. Under “Moods” there is an incredible playlist called Deep Focus. It’s become my creative soundtrack.
Now that you have a good place to work, hit play and get to it!
Step 4: Get To Work!
When making a blackout poem I start the process by finding a word that pops off the page to me. From there I start looking for other words to go along with it to form not just a sentence, but a thought or an idea.
Here’s a tip: Try to evoke an emotion with your blackout poem. It might be hope, love, anger or even despair, but all the best art evokes emotion.
Once you’ve found the words you want to use grab your Sharpie(s).
I like to use the Ultra Fine Point Sharpie first to outline the words. Since it creates a pretty small and precise line you don’t have to worry about the marker bleeding into the words and ruining your blackout poem.
Once you’ve created a fine border around your chosen words you’ll then want to enlarge the size of the border with the Fine Point Sharpie (regular size), so that when you use the Magnum Sharpie you don’t accidentally draw inside the border and potentially cover up the word or have any excess bleed from the marker.
Now that you have a sizable border it’s time to pull out the big gun. The Magnum Sharpie! This size Sharpie is great for blacking out the rest of the page without using up your smaller Sharpies. If you’ve made a blackout poem before you know what I’m talking about. The smaller Sharpies tend to dry up quick when you’re making multiple blackout poems.
Here’s a tip: If your Sharpie starts to dry up, dip the tip of it in a cap full of rubbing alcohol for about 15 minutes to revive the poor guy.
Step 5: Share it!
Now that you’ve completed your blackout poem, snap a picture of it with your smartphone and share it with the world.
My favorite place to post my blackout poetry is Instagram, but I also have a Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr account that I post my blackout poetry to. If you’re savvy, you already know that Instagram lets you do this with their share feature — allowing you to post your blackout poetry to multiple places at once.
Last but not least, if you decide to share your blackout poetry with the world via Instagram use the hashtag #makeblackoutpoetry. I check the hashtag daily and post my favorite blackout poetry pieces to my account regularly.