A number of years ago, I put together a book-length work of erasure poetry, BAD THINGS HAPPEN. I constructed it as a form of catharsis during a time of difficult and heart-breaking events in my personal life. But now with the world situation as it is, I suspect it might speak new and fresh words into current events. I haven’t reread the book in light of the pandemic, but I may take a few minutes later to see what new connotations emerge.
An erasure is a “found” poem in which the poet works with text from an original work to create something new. An erasure is often created in response to, or in conversation with, the original source text. Through purposeful decision-making, the erasure poet will subvert, challenge, question, or build upon the meaning and themes in the source text. Unlike a blackout poem (which presents the original redacted text with the new poem as a visual art form), an erasure constructs the new work into lines/stanzas, thus creating something separate from the original source text.
BAD THINGS HAPPEN is a book-length collection of erasure poems constructed in response to the book, Lord, Where Are You When Bad Things Happen? by Kay Arthur. Arthur’s book is a daily Bible study examining questions about the role of God in difficult life events.
While creating the works in BAD THINGS HAPPEN, the author sought to take the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t claim the infallibility of the Bible or even necessarily believe in any sort of god. The view is that the reality in life is bad things happen. Truly bad things happen. Even evil things.
The erasure poetry in BAD THINGS HAPPEN doesn’t necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of the poet, but are offered as food for thought. This work is mainly an exercise in self-expression and creative experimental writing.
I’m currently working on an erasure poem of an entire book. Is there such a thing as an epic erasure? That seems to better describe this undertaking. I actually completed the book’s erasure and now I’m working to format and edit it. I’m sort of excited. It’s been quite a project. 🙂
Here’s a brief sample of a small part of one of the poems I found hiding in the text of the book I’ve been erasing. Stayed tuned for more on this project.
UPDATE! The book is now in print! Click on the book cover for details!
Sometimes I go back through my notebooks from Graduate school and make centos (collage poems) from phrases I find in the pages. This is the fifth of a series of centos from my notebooks.
now is a now and this is a this
Notebook Cento #5
a now is a now is a now
creating space . between self and outside . inside and out
1st person and 3rd
disjunctive . disruptive
find a place, not a position
not an either/or . but an and and an and and an and and …
respect the thing itself
this is this, is this, is this— . rather than this is that
Erasure poem: Source Youth Challenges by Clarence B Kelland by Debi
compelled to become lowly
beliefs handed down
to the leveling tradition
elevating of equality
had risen beyond
of her family
Erasure poem – sourced from Clouds by Aristophones by Debi
dreadful things openly
a torch the moonlight
but observe correctly
confuse the gods
when they are defrauded
the regular feast
the number of days
gods are litigating
reason obtained afterward
to spend the days
according to the Moon
I’ve been playing around a bit with erasure and found poetry lately. Today I decided to grab a random book off my shelf (specifically not poetry) and construct a poem of sorts from words/phrases in the first few pages/chapters.
The book I chose to play with today was Habitsby Charlotte Mason (a British educator from the last century).
We are all mere creatures of habit
we think our accustomed thoughts
make our usual small talk
the trivial round
the common task
The mother’s thoughts run on her children
the painter’s on pictures
the poet’s on poems
a thinker of high thoughts—
apt to forget that the thought that defiles
behaves precisely as the thought that purifies
born with the future in his hands—
the habits of the child
produce the character of the man
an act of faith resting on experience
The effort of decision is the greatest effort of life
not the doing of the thing
but the making up of one’s mind
which thing to do first