alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions

Blackout Poem: The Lost City


I love the idea that stories can be found lurking in unexpected places (like they’re just hanging out, nonchalantly whistling to themselves, thinking they’re getting away with it.)

Even more, I love exercises and prompts that trick me into writing. Combine the two with the formula Newspaper + Marker = Poetry and you get a blackout poem.

Poem-hunting (imagine me in a pith helmet, carrying a Sharpie-tipped spear) was supposed to be my reward for writing a first draft of a new story on Friday, but I didn’t get to it until today, sitting at the kitchen counter keeping an eye on a pot of boiling chick peas. There are worse ways to begin a new year than with the excavation of a previously undiscovered poem.

My poem was unearthed from the bottom half of page A18 of The New York Times, Friday, December 28, 2012.

New York Times, Dec. 28, 2012

The Lost City

In a city of missed connections, consider the map:
Lines stop and hop hopelessly out of view.
Clocks steal a weekday morning,
then back up the staircase to a different city.
Without music worth following, a language comes
Like two animals slinking up the steps, doubled by the wind.

To uncover your own hidden story you will need:

–1 copy of the New York Times or other pre-printed reading material
–1 fat black marker
–1 cup of hot chocolate, coffee, or other warming beverage of your choice

If you find one, send me a link in the comments, please!

Author: Alisa Alering

I write stories. I read stories.

8 thoughts on “Blackout Poem: The Lost City

  1. WOW! What a neat idea (yes, I’m new to blackout poetry). It reminds me of what Michaelgelo (sp?) said about art (the statue is in the block and I’m just removing the excess, or something like that). I love what you sculpted from the article.

  2. This is a great idea!! Never heard of blackout poems before. I’m so going to try this out. Thanks for the share! 😛

  3. What a gorgeous poem, Alisa! It seems like this mode of composition encourages precise and surprising images. I love it.

  4. This is a great exercise. I never tried this before but I can foresee lots of exciting writing time ahead 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.

  5. I love this! And your poem is..well, it’s a lot more cohesive and beautiful than what I might usually expect from an exercise like this. Makes me really want to try it. Off to nick an old copy of Newsweek from the office!

    • Thanks, Sarah! I did have lots of fun with it — and was pleased with how it came out. Like other exercises that present limitations (no letter ‘e’ or must use these 5 words), having something to strive against really spikes creativity. Having the words, and even the order, constrained led me back to my favorite problem: narrative structure. Even if everything else was out of my hands, I could try to give it structure and movement.

      I’ve also thought it might be fun to try this with something even more limited – a specialist magazine, like Bon Appetit or Jane’s Defense Weekly. Please show your results from Newsweek!

  6. I am inspired.

    I want to make a black-out poem.

    Very good.

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