Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon

Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon (Harper Perennial, April 13, 2010), 208 pages

Austin Kleon picked up a marker and the New York Times and started creating poetry.

This is a really cool idea (although not unique to Kleon, as he points out in the book’s introduction). I love that he’s creating by subtracting (or destroying, as he said it), deconstructing another written work.

Some of the pieces seem totally meaningless to me, but others have real depth. I was drawn to this book because of the newspaper aspect, I think. I’m not a huge poetry aficionado.

The wrong punctuation in some of the poems really distracted me — why didn’t he black out that errant comma or hyphen? Such choices just made the piece(s) confusing and didn’t add anything.

The first section was my least favorite; I’m not sure if I just didn’t connect with the content or what. I call it a “section,” because, although the book isn’t divided into sections, it does seem to follow a sort of narrative. At first it felt that the poems were just presented in no particular order, but gradually a thread appeared. This may be one of my favorite aspects of the book.

I wanted some of the poems to be longer, to jump from one page to the next.

Some pieces I particularly liked:
• “On a Sunday,” page 67
• “In Cleveland, on My Deathbed,” page 71
• “The Pursuit of Landscaping,” page 83

• “His Wife Appears,” page 137

The book also includes a tutorial on creating your own blackout poems.

In some ways, I might prefer a daily or weekly dose of such poems (such as, via Kleon’s blog) to the book (that I read straight through, pretty quickly), but really, a daily dose and the book are two separate animals.

About the author
Austin Kleon is, in his own words, “a writer, cartoonist, designer, and visual thinker obsessed with the art of communicating with pictures and words, together.” He’s @austinkleon on Twitter.

Other reviews
She Is Too Fond of Books
Classic Vasilly: 1330V

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher.


5 responses to “Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon

  1. “His Wife Appears” is one of my favorites, too (funny!)

    Constructing a poem this way was harder than I expected, but my kids and I have had fun trying …

    • I’ve been meaning to try, but since I don’t subscribe to a newspaper any more, it takes a bit of effort to find the raw materials, you know?

  2. Great review. There were a few poems that I didn’t care for, but overall I really enjoyed reading the book. You can always use an old book to make found poems though I cringe at the thought of destroying a book. 🙂

  3. Interesting concept but I don’t think I’d like to read it straight through. I enjoy poetry much more in small bits so I can think about each poem.

  4. I’m really interested in this one. I don’t know if you saw my post on teaching The Book Thief, but one of my students actually did something just like this. I had never seen anything like it and loved the concept. I agree with some of the others that it may not be a read through, but this, to me, is as much about visual art as it is about the written.

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