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September 15, 2010

Writer Transforms Newspaper Articles into Poetry

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Writers get inspiration from all sorts of places, and for poet Austin Kleon, that inspiration came from his daily newspaper. Using only a black marker, Kleon creates poems by blacking out all but the words from the newspaper he wants included in his poem.

Kleon studied writing in college, where he had the chance to showcase his work to fellow students and teachers. But, when he graduated, he lacked both an audience and the inspiration to keep writing. When he saw a stack of newspapers in the recycling bin next to his desk, he decided to use them to try a writing exercise. Next thing he knew, he was creating poetry out of the words in the paper.

Kleon treats his newspaper poetry like the word find puzzles he used to do in school, combing the text for words and phrases he wants to use. His newspaper poetry has been turned into a book called “Newspaper Blackout.”

Quotes

“When I got out of college, I was struggling. I didn’t have an audience anymore. And I just hit what is just a basic old case of writer’s block. I thought, you know, I just don’t have any words. I kind looked over at the recycle bin next to my desk, and it was piled full of newspapers.” – Austin Kleon, newspaper poet

“I came to the method because I love to read newspapers so much. But what I found out is that I need to treat the newspaper as a blank canvas in order to really come up with a good poem.” – Austin Kleon, newspaper poet

“My joy when I’m making them is to somehow really play off that article, to either completely transform the raw material of the article into my own poem, so that the poem doesn’t even resemble the original article, or to in some way kind of parody the article or twist the article into a different meaning.” – Austin Kleon, newspaper poet

Warm Up Questions

1. What is poetry?

2. What is the purpose of a newspaper article?

3. What is the difference between poetry and prose?

Discussion Questions

1. Using a newspaper and a dark marker, make your own newspaper poem. What’s most difficult about the process? How did you choose which words to include?

2. Have you ever experienced writer’s block when working on an assignment or project? What does it feel like? How did you overcome it?

3. Kleon says his favorite thing about writing newspaper poetry is when he can “parody the article or twist the article into a different meaning.” What does he mean by that? Can you think of an example?

Additional Resources

Video Transcript

NewsHour Poetry Series

NewsHour Extra Arts and Media Coverage

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