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Poetry Silhouettes: A New Writing Perspective

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

Have you fallen into a slump? Can't figure out what you want to write next. Why not check out a new poetic perspective where you can reimagine your favorite texts? An opportunity to let the silhouettes in the corners of your mind come to life!

Silhouette person walking in the sunset with birds above.
Created with Canva.

What is a Poetry Silhouette?

Imagine for a second that you could take any kind of prose and turn it into a poem. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Take a snippet from your favorite book, an interesting magazine article, or an endearing poem. Now blackout certain aspects of it leaving behind the words you want to use. The resulting creation is a poetry silhouette.

The purpose of a poetry silhouette is to take pre-existing meaning and change the connotation into something else. Before you go shouting plagiarism keep in mind that you aren’t copying the molding work verbatim; just bits and pieces of it. A more common name for this form of poetry is called blackout poetry.

Poetry silhouettes are particularly useful for a couple of reasons.

  1. It’s a great way to break out of that inevitable writer’s block attitude.

  2. It stimulates the mind to think creatively and out of the box.

  3. Grants a writer a new perspective on writing.

Let's Create A Poetry Silhouette!

Firstly, there are some materials you’ll need to complete this task.

  • Print out of selected text (or digital copy if using a computer).

  • A pen or pencil to jot down notes.

  • An eraser (or backspace) to eliminate mistakes.

  • A black marker (or black highlighter in a word program or paint).

Feel free to select your text sample, or follow along with the example, if you'd like to write along with the article.

Step One: Choosing Your Text

Select a short section of a magazine article, a poem, or your favorite book and copy the words down on a notebook or your computer program. For this exercise, I’ll be taking a snippet from TJ Klune’s “The House In The Cerulean Sea.”

Sample text from TJ Klune's The House In The Cerulean Sea
Klune, TJ. "The House In The Cerulean Sea." TOR Publishing, March 2020, Ch. 5, pg. 71. Created with Canva.

Step Two: Choose An Anchor Word/Phrase

Select a word or short phrase from the sample text that catches your attention. The focus of your poetry silhouette will be centered around this selection. For this exercise, I’ve selected the phrase: if there was a garden.

Step Three: Choosing Your Choice Words/Phrases

Peruse the rest of the sample text and underline any words that associate with the anchor word that you selected in step two, or words that resonate with you. A good practice to following in this step is to space out your underlined selections, underlying no more than three to five words per line. The reason for this limitation is to refrain from simple copying and pasting of the original text and to engage and activate creative thinking.

Underlined words and phrases from original text selection
Underlined Keywords And Phrases Worth Highlighting. Created with Canva.

Step Four: Let's Clean Up A Bit

List everything that you have selected from the previous step onto a blank document in sequential order. This step is important because it provides clarity and order when you go to write up your completed poetry silhouette.

Navigate each word and phrase you have underlined and remove anything that is inconsistent but does not add new words or phrases. Rearrange the words and phrases so that they make more sense to you if you wish.

Step Five: It's Alive!

Following your newly created list of words and phrases, go into the original copy and begin highlighting the parts of the lines that you didn’t select in black marker (or highlighter on a computer). Your final product should look like the example below.

Example of the finalized blackout poem.
"If There Was A Garden" by Ken Merchant, A Blackout Poem. Created with Canva.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this exercise was fun and you’ll utilize it in the future. From time to time it can be difficult to regain some new perspectives on creating your poetry. Poetry silhouettes are an excellent way to stimulate artistic expression and think outside of the box. There are other similar methods to blackout poetry as well. The most predominant of which is erasure poetry which you can discover more about here. I challenge you to try out this exercise and see what happens. Once you’ve completed the task, come back and share your experience and your piece with everyone here at The Poetry Cove.

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