Writing Prompt: Erasure

Written by Emily Harstone | May 22, 2013

This writing prompt is a little different. Instead of requiring you to write words with a pen, this writing exercise is all about crossing things out with a sharpie. This week the writing exercise is to create an erasure.

An erasure is a poem that starts out with a piece of existing text, but instead of adding to it, you subtract. Some poets cut words or sentences out with a knife, most write over it with a sharpie. The text they are altering could be a newspaper article, or a page from a book. They turn the prose into a poem by subtracting words and by using only the words given to them.

You can see a good example of an erasure poem here.

The writing prompt this week is for you to create an erasure poem. You can use a page (or pages) from an old book you rescued from the sidewalk or you can use the newspaper. You could also find a book online that is in the public domain and print one of the pages off. Personally if I am going to do an erasure I actually like to do the same page more than once and compare the results.

I highly recommend that you do this exercise without reading the whole page or article first. I find the poems tend to be more creative if you experiment that way.

Feel free to erase as much or as little as you want. Some people cover up a few words, others remove hundreds of words per page, leaving just a few. When you are creating your erasure do whatever feels natural to you.

When you are making your first erasure it is best to do it with a black marker or a sharpie, but as you make more, you might want to be more creative with how you cover up the words you don’t want to use.