Poetry Month: The Erasure Poem.

The last poem format we are going to talk about this month is the erasure poem, also known as the blackout poem or the redacted poem. The erasure poem is not a new concept, but it is a form which lends itself to those who are unsure of their ability to write poetry because it limits your choice of words.

Erasure poetry is a form of “found poetry.” It is created by erasing words from a “found text” and using the leftover words to form your poem. It is akin to an artist that takes an already drawn picture and erases lines to form a whole new picture. You take a text which you have no authority over, i.e., you did not author, and then you exert your judgment as to the words that have meaning, cadence, and your voice to reform it into a poem. So out of the “found text,” you create a poem.

Working with a block of text such as a passage from your favorite book or song, or a pamphlet you received in the mail, or for that matter, an advertisement on a cereal box limits the choices of words you have to choose from to compose your poem. Therefore you must carefully select words that have substance to their meaning; that expresses a sense of beauty, and that can be used to create rhythm. Choose words that reflect your voice. Once you have chosen the words, push them around until you have created a story or word picture that pleases you.

As you work with your selected words, you are now able to control the line breaks, the punctuation, the stanzas, and the new title.


Here is an erasure poem I created  from The Star-Spangled Banner

Original text:

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


The erasure poem:

The Dawn’s Light

        By Marie Staight

O! See the dawn’s light,                   dawn

Proudly gleaming.

Whose bright stars fight?

We watched streaming,

The red, bursting the air,

Proof the night was there –

That star-spangled wave

O’er the land free and brave.


I also created a poem from the opening lines of one of my favorite books – Pride and Prejudice.

Original text:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters.”

– Opening two paragraphs of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin


The Fate of Regency Daughters

                                 By Marie Staight

A single man                                         Regency Girls

A good fortune

Want of a wife.

 Little known feelings

In the minds of families

Considered of daughters.


I hope the poem formats I have discussed over Poetry month have inspired you to try a hand at composing some poems.

All comments are welcome!

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