Blackout Poetry: Why Do We Care?



By Arianna Cannarozzo

New – New technologies, new trends, new everything. Our society has been built upon the idea that new is better; we look for it everywhere we go. We constantly ask ourselves “what is the next best thing?”. It’s done in every aspect of our lives… so why aren’t we doing the same thing for poetry?

Poetry is so often said to be a thing of the past. Shakespeare isn’t always the most relevant reference material and you may be wondering whether your Instagram captions count. And sure, it can be argued that there has been some sort of resurgence as of late, with a lot of artists writing song lyrics or rap verses to encapsulate their mood. It’s all wonderful and exciting until you realize that in the last 10 years, not too much has changed and that not a lot of people are looking to the future. There are so many new ways to explore, and I want to talk about a personal favorite: Blackout Poetry.

Blackout poetry is a form of writing that focuses on creating something new out of the old. It’s the art of taking tired text and redacting the words until there’s only a few remaining; leaving a message for the reader in the form of a poem. This form of writing has become more popular in the last few years, as artists and writers are using it as a new tool to explore and express themselves.

This type of poetry goes past the words in many ways. It’s merged with visual arts, writers exploring different ways to showcase the words they have chosen. Doodles, paintings, scribbles, all of which are spectacular. There will never be two of the same piece, each page or article holding an infinite amount of meanings to an infinite number of people. What you see on a page reflects you and your subconscious. There is no hiding and that is truly beautiful.


To help us get a closer look into the world of blackout poetry, we talked to writer and artist John Carroll. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, John is an extraordinary artist who uses his Instagram account to feature his own work and the work of many other artists, creating a tight-knit community in the process. He also published his own collection of blackout poetry and essays called “Hidden Messages of Hope”, which has an exciting rerelease date set for this summer!

Check out the full interview with John Carroll below:

I’d love for you to tell me about your path. When did you start writing?

I started writing in the early 2000s when blogging first started getting popular. There was a strong community aspect of blogging and the idea of being able to write something and receive feedback was very appealing to me. I initially used it as a journaling platform, but then began experimenting with different genres and writing styles.

You have published quite a bit of blackout poetry over the years. Why do you think that this style of writing has had such an influence on you?

I’ve found that creating blackout poetry is very therapeutic and gives me insight as to how I’m feeling subconsciously.

For example, two people could look at the same text, but probably create very different poems due to how the words on the page resonate with them individually.

In terms of my writing practices, blackout poetry is similar to stream of conscious writing for me. When I write a short story I typically start with a basic idea and start writing opposed to having an outline. With blackout poetry, I start with one word and build around it, not knowing what direction the message might go.

What would you say has been the most rewarding part of the journey you’ve been on?

The most rewarding aspect of Make Blackout Poetry has been creating a platform on Instagram to encourage people to be creative regardless of their skill level, and having that resonate with a community of people.

You run the Instagram account @makeblackoutpoetry, where you not only post your own work but the work of other writers. How do you think this community has effected you, and vice-versa?

As a writer and an artist you always want people to appreciate your work, but to see a community form based on an idea that you had is humbling. The entire experience fills me with gratitude.

For those involved in the community, I believe that it has ignited a passion in them to create and a freedom to share it with the world, without feeling self-conscious. Everyone has to start their creative journey somewhere, it’s nice to be welcomed to the party.

What advice would you give to people who want to try blackout poetry?

Grab a marker and an old book that you were about to drop off at the thrift store.

Find a page with some words that resonate with you and start creating your own message.

If it seems intimidating, just make a simple message to start with. Most of my blackout poetry is typically only 5-7 words long.

Can you give us any reading recommendations?

Two of my favorite books are A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson and Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh Macleod. Both of these books changed my life. They might just change your life, too.


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