Erasure poetry, also known as blackout poetry, is a form of found poetry wherein a poet takes an existing text and erases, blacks out, or otherwise obscures a large portion of the text, creating a wholly new work from what remains.
Erasure poetry may be used as a means of collaboration, creating a new text from an old one and thereby starting a dialogue between the two, or as a means of confrontation, a challenge to a pre-existing text.
Examples of the Erasure Form
One seminal work of erasure poetry is Ronald Johnson’s Radi Os (Flood Editions, 1977), a revision of the first four books of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Other more contemporary examples of erasure include Jen Bervin’s Nets (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2003), which uses Shakepeare's sonnets as primary source texts; The O Mission Repo by Travis Macdonald (Fact-Simile Editions, 2008), which uses the 9/11 Commission Report as a source; The ms of my kin by Janet Holmes (Shearsman Books, 2009), which uses the poems of Emily Dickinson as a source; David Dodd Lee’s Sky Booths in the Breath Somewhere, The Ashbery Erasure Poems (BlazeVOX, 2011); and M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! (Wesleyan University Press, 2011), which uses as its source the legal text from a case against Gregson, a company that owned the ship Zong on which 150 Africans were massacred.