I have long loved erasure poetry, and in fact I have a few planned erasure-poetry projects up my sleeve. I’m collecting documents that I plan to cut up, mark up, and erase — perhaps this summer, since I have other writing projects to attend to, first, though I did just see this call for submissions that has got me super excited, so … We’ll see how April goes, I guess.
Two years ago, when I was asked to teach Sappho for our class on gender and sexuality in Greece, I designed a poetry project for students who weren’t generally poets or creative writers. I asked students to write “Sapphic” poetry (however they chose to interpret that instruction), and then I asked them to “fragment” the poems they wrote. For their final assignment, they turned in their original poems, their fragmented poems, and a statement about the process of fragmenting their own work. Since so much of Sappho’s poetry has come to us in fragments — sometimes, just a word or two — I felt this was a fitting assignment that would get students thinking about the blank spaces, about what’s missing, the what’s-not-there in Sappho’s work. The translation of Sappho I chose for the course, incidentally, was Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter — a spare, careful, unembellished translation that marks up the page with symbols to illustrate where the holes are, literally. I’ve read many translations of Sappho, but the poet herself never spoke to me until I read Carson’s translation. With all the flowery liberty of previous translations stripped away, Sappho’s naked poetry burns through the page.
And so, I love poetry in fragments, which often leads me to seek out erasure poetry. For some reason over the past year I have thought about erasure poetry a lot; it just has seemed erasure is in the air, politically and socially. So I haven’t been surprised to see that other writers, too, are turning to erasure poetry in order to make sense of the heavy silences around us. I found this piece in The New Republic about how Trump has brought out the erasure poet in all of us. Yeah — that resonates. And a fellow writer recently shared this incredible project by Isobel O’Hare, in which she is fragmenting and erasing celebrity sexual misconduct statements. It’s perfect — so, so perfect. The project works because it deconstructs the perpetrators’ words, and it takes away the control they think they have over us, their audience. We’re on to you, O’Hare is saying. We can read between your lines.
I’m publishing this entry now because I’ll be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo beginning tomorrow, April 1, so I’m not sure how active I’ll be once April gets rolling. My goal for #campnano is four short-story drafts. Each story should be approximately 5,000 words, so my word-count goal is 20,000 words. That’s 666 words a day (ha!) for the month of April. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but on top of regular life, it will definitely be a challenge.
Wish me luck!