A Diversion into Redaction Poetry Following an Incident with Coffee

I’ve been pondering what I’ll create for the “Words” exhibition opening at Skyeworks Gallery in April, aware of time ticking away without my starting anything. My mind has kept circling back to found poetry along the lines of Tom Phillips’ Humument. (I fell in love with Phillips’ word-based artwork on encountering it by chance at an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In 1989, I just looked it up).

A few days ago when the in-house art critic accidentally drowned a book with a cup of coffee, I thought “aha, words exhibition”, and thus it entered my studio to begin a new life as “collage material”. Add a felt-tip pen, and I ended up creating some redaction poems (also known as found poetry, blackout poetry). Turns out the book was indeed as interesting as the in-house art critic had said.

Found Blackout Redacted Poem
Found Blackout Redacted Poem
Found Blackout Redacted Poem
Found Blackout Redacted Poem
Found Blackout Redacted Poem
Found Blackout Redacted Poem

The writer-artist Austin Kleon, who does a lot of blackout poetry, describes it thus: “It’s sort of like if the CIA did haiku.” His video on the history of this borrowing and reworking is worth a watch.

I prefer the term “redaction” to “blackout”, because redacting a document is something deliberate and active, while a blackout is more something that happens to you. And redacted documents do carry that sinister edge of “what is it they don’t want you to see”, along with the changing of meaning by hiding things. Also, you needn’t use black.

Found Blackout Redacted Poem
(The black-and-white version of this above was photo-edited.)

If you’re wondering what the book was, it’s James the Good: The Black Douglas by David R Ross (affiliate link).

I did also make a start on a piece that could possibly be for the exhibition, but it’s early days:

6 Replies to “A Diversion into Redaction Poetry Following an Incident with Coffee”

      1. I think you should seek out a copy of Farmers Weekly or similar and find an article on sheep. I love pictures with words and even more so when they are relevant to the subject matter. I look forward to seeing more!

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