08 October 2010

Featuring . . . Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon

This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.

Do you remember the buzz about Austin Kleon's Newspaper Blackout from early this summer? I was (am) so intrigued with this concept: Kleon takes a small portion of the newspaper and scans it for words and phrases that speak to him. Then he takes a marker and blacks out all the words he doesn't need, creating a poem.

Here's how the publisher describes Newspaper Blackout:

Poet and cartoonist Austin Kleon has discovered a new way to read between the lines. Armed with a daily newspaper and a permanent marker, he constructs through deconstruction—eliminating the words he doesn't need to create a new art form: Newspaper Blackout poetry.

Highly original, Kleon's verse ranges from provocative to lighthearted, and from moving to hysterically funny, and undoubtedly entertaining. The latest creations in a long history of "found art," Newspaper Blackout will challenge you to find new meaning in the familiar and inspiration from the mundane.

Newspaper Blackout contains original poems by Austin Kleon, as well as submissions from readers of Kleon's popular online blog and a handy appendix on how to create your own blackout poetry.
On the surface, it seems as if it would be easy to create a blackout poem, but I didn't find the process to be simple. I love the visual impact of the poems, the white boxes around the words, their placement on the page, and the great void all around. I also liked the range of poems found in this collection, from funny to profound.

Be warned, however, that you'll be motivated to try your hand at creating your own poetry once you become familiar with Keon's work.

Here are three blogger reviews; each captures a different aspect of the book.
  • In her review, Dawn from She Is Too Fond of Books expressed respect for the talent required to create this type of poetry. Her review also includes a fun and informative video (well worth watching).
  • What I liked about Vassily's review, from 1330V, is that she spent a bit of time introducing the concept of found poetry. I hadn't realized that it was an established art form. She also noted that the poems would have broad appeal.
  • The review on Word Lily's blog includes some scans of the poems found in the book. After a slow start, she ended up finding the narrative path of the collection, although not all poems were to her liking.
Kleon's most recent poem (found on here) was posted on his blog a couple of weeks ago. I reproduce the words here, but to truly appreciate Kleon's work it is necessary to see the physical layout of the words. I encourage you to visit his blog:

I don't
want to go

Most of us have felt that way once or twice, haven't we? Update: check out this link to see what poems others have found in their newspapers (thanks, Austin!)

This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. See the alphabetized review index to see what others are saying. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

Newspaper Blackout at Powell's
Newspaper Blackout at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2010


Sandy Nawrot 10/8/10, 6:31 AM  

I would totally read this book just because it is so darned clever. Who, but someone with a gifted mind, even think to do something like this!

Beth Hoffman 10/8/10, 9:26 AM  

I won this book in a giveaway. I now do blackout poetry when I'm on the plane traveling on author tour. It really gets my creativity jazzed.

Vasilly 10/8/10, 9:47 AM  

Glad to hear you liked this book! I really enjoyed it. I hope more people read your review and pick it up!

Vasilly 10/8/10, 9:49 AM  

I meant, after reading your review I hope more people pick up the book!

Willa 10/8/10, 12:06 PM  

This sounds cool, I will have to have a look at it. A bit worried that i will become absorbed by black out poetry though :-)

Julie P. 10/8/10, 12:44 PM  

I'm very intrigued as well!

TNBBC Super Mod 10/8/10, 9:04 PM  

I LOVED this book. The way he connects words using only those found in the paper... Some are hilarious, some are sad, some are absolutely beautiful!

Aerie-el 10/8/10, 9:18 PM  

Brilliant! I will definitely look into this more. Thank you for the links.
On a random note: when I read your post of Kleon's recent poem/physical layout of the words, I couldn't help myself from hearing 'Captain Kirk' reading it. And I loved it. Is that wrong?

Book Club Girl 10/9/10, 12:22 AM  

It is definitely not easy to construct a poem - plus, you can end up with a lot of black marker on your desk, as I did in my attempt: http://www.bookclubgirl.com/.a/6a00d8341c9ac653ef01347fdc25f7970c-pi

Alice Teh 10/9/10, 9:45 AM  

This would give me something INTERESTING to do! Very intriguing. I like the idea!

Veens 10/9/10, 10:07 AM  

What an idea, I am totally impressed!

Great review and I am glad you have pointed out other point of views too.

bermudaonion 10/9/10, 7:15 PM  

I think this book sounds fascinating and I imagine writing one of those poems would be tough!

Jessica (The Bluestocking Society) 10/12/10, 7:46 PM  

I read this book a little while ago and was totally inspired, particularly by the history of altered books. I haven't tried to make a newspaper blackout yet, but I'm definitely planning to!

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