One of the issues that plague a lot of writers is the feeling that everything you write is terrible. And that leads to not writing from fear. Brienna talked about this a few weeks ago, and what applies to poetry, applies to writing.
One thing I’ve learned from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (besides having “crappy” first drafts), is to just do short assignments in order to get into the habit of writing. Now don’t cringe – these aren’t awful homework assignments but writing prompts. A major problem that many of us face when it comes to writing is just sitting down and doing it. Writing prompts are meant to pull you from that slump and just have fun with writing.
Everyone suffers from writer’s block at some point, and there are a billion solutions for getting past it. But when someone told me that she runs her poems through Google translate when she gets stuck, I had to try it.
What’s the hardest part about writing? Most writers will tell you it’s staring at a blank sheet of paper or the blinking cursor on a white screen. But what if you could reverse the process?
Erasure poetry does just that. Instead of starting with a blank page, erasure poems begin with a prose text written by someone else. Then, the poet crosses out phrases (and even sentences) until the remaining words form a poem. My text, a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, fit completely on one page, but many erasure poems are made from a single page of a longer story or essay.
When I started my poem, crossing out words was really easy. Getting the leftover words to make sense was a little harder. This forced me to stop trying to control the poem or plan what would happen in it. Instead, I had to tap into my creative side by choosing interesting words or images and trying to link them together. The result was a lyrical poem that I called “Coal.”
I made a second erasure poem using the same text, but the result was completely different. Although it even used some of the same words as “Coal,” my second poem, “She and He,” was much more narrative.
Working with someone else’s words helped me create images and expressions that I would never have thought of on my own. I enjoyed the variety this technique helped me produce, and I would love to try it again.