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Blackout Poetry and Other Avenues of Creativity

My son came for a visit this weekend and we had a lot of fun spending time together – just hanging out and, among other things, creating blackout poetry! Yeah, we do things like that. He’s a high school English teacher and I work in the author publicity field, so I always have my nose in a book of some sort. Anyway, we are definitely cut from the same cloth and every time he visits we tend to gravitate toward a few favorite activities involving some sort of creativity. Here are a few ideas to ignite your imagination:

Shakespeare anyone?

The first cultural activity we had planned included a visit to Zilker Park Hillside Theater, a beautiful outdoor venue in Austin, TX. Twice a year they host free shows for the public. Austin Shakespeare always hosts the May production, featuring one of Shakespeare’s works (obviously).  This year the show is “The Merchant of Venice” and we were really looking forward to going.  We typically pack a picnic, spread out a few blankets and soak up some Shakespeare!  Unfortunately, it rained all day Saturday. Sounds like the show still went on in spite of inclement conditions, but, I’m a fair-weather girl, and between the tornado warnings and the thought of sitting on wet grounds, it didn’t really sound all that appealing, so we opted for Plan B.

Plan B – Jigsaw Puzzles!

Best laid plans, right? If you’re stuck inside or just choose to be inside and want to spend quality time with family and friends – do a jigsaw puzzle! Along with some great conversation and laughs, there are also many benefits from doing puzzles – such as developing increased problem-solving skills, lowering stress levels, improving your mood – the list goes on.

In fact,  Here’s a good article about some of the benefits. I do at least two or three puzzles a year. I’d do them more often, but they tend to take me away from things that need to be done – though I do love a good distraction. Still, I think they spark creativity because they stimulate your mind and require thinking outside the box.  This is the puzzle we did this weekend.  The photo didn’t turn out that great – It’s a blueprint of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” house and it was a HARD puzzle!

But, what about the blackout poetry?

What about the blackout poetry?  Yes, it is so much fun! I’ve heard about it but never actually tried it, so we took a break from the jigsaw puzzle to create some blackout poems of our own! I found some helpful information online outlining the process. John DePasquale of Scholastic says of blackout poetry:

“Blackout poems can be created using the pages of old books or even articles cut from yesterday’s newspaper. Using the pages of an existing text, blackout poets isolate then piece together single words or short phrases from these texts to create lyrical masterpieces. Blackout poems, as I’m sure you can imagine, run the gamut from absurd to sublime because all of the words are already there on the page, but the randomness is all part of the fun!” Read his full article here for instructions and guidelines to create your own blackout poetry.

My son does this activity with his classes and says it’s always a big hit with the kids.  I found it to be engaging, inspirational and thought-provoking. It definitely stirs your creative juices, so it may even help you in other areas of your writing.  Hailey Hudson of “Craft Your Content” says every writer should do blackout poetry because it relieves stress, restores creativity and helps with writer’s block! Read Hailey’s full article here.

Handiwork from our blackout session.

Here is one of my creations from this weekend. A lot of blackout poetry includes artwork and it’s quite impressive. I’m not there yet – I’m just playing around with the words at this point. All in all, I was happy with my first attempt (though it is a bit dark – I have a goal to work on being more inspirational in the future). I can say this – the whole process is addicting!

To learn more about blackout poetry and see some examples, just Google “blackout poetry” for some amazing inspiration. I’d love to see some of your blackout poetry and hear how you bring creativity into your days!

Sheri Hoyte

I am currently planning my first picture book story as well as doing research for a historical fiction novel set in the 1930s in Lake Placid, New York.

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