Kleon, Austin. Newspaper Blackout. Harper Perennial, 2010. ISBN 978-0061732973 208 pp. $16.99
I am in love with this book and want to have its babies. Newspaper Blackout is a collection of poems, loosely arranged by theme in a narrative thread that spans childhood through young adulthood, dealing with subjects such as the school locker room, first romance, and the dreariness of the office cubicle. What makes this book unique is the author crafted the poems essentially through editing another’s words–newspaper articles, specifically. After establishing an anchor point, other words were selected to form a poem, and all remaining words blacked out.
The book includes instructions on how to make your own newspaper blackout poems, and several winners from the author’s poetry contest, hosted on his blog. The author recognizes this is a not a new fad, and pays homage to others who have created (or reinvented) from the words of others in the preface, encourages support for the dying newspaper industry, and empowers readers to become poets in the simplest of ways.
Really, this is a highly accessible poetry book for non-poetry fans. It’s incredibly unique, and the poems are well constructed. The poems in this superb collection are by turns profound, funny, clever, silly, and touching. They are touchstones for universal experiences that anyone can relate to (little league, high school politics, desire, deciding on a career).
The poems are evocative, well-composed, and memorable. I had several moments where I caught my breath after reading. Two standouts that are particular favorites of mine:
“Genetics” (“the truth” / is / we’re all about / genetics / This could be an advantage / could be a disadvantage / The / risk / is / family / and / the only value to knowing is / you / can / say / “Gosh, now I understand what / makes me)
“A Teenage Moment of Caution” (A Teenage / moment of / caution / dismissed / when / her two best / friends tell her he / is / the Devil) .