June 14, 2021

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How Do You Express Yourself Creatively?

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In what ways do you express yourself creatively? Through art? Acting? Writing? Dancing? Cooking? Making music? Something else?

How often do you engage in these kinds of activities? For what purpose? Has art or creativity helped you during the pandemic?

The past year has been difficult for many people. The pandemic, the politics, the job loss and the isolation — most Americans have had to find some new coping mechanisms to make it through. Here’s one: erasure poetry.

Creativity can be healing in difficult times, but it’s not always easy to tap into those creative juices. Sometimes you’re just too overwhelmed and exhausted to write or create. In those times, turning to found poetry — a style of poetry in which you write something new using only what you can find in an existing text — can help.

Sometimes when it’s hard to write, that constraint gives you a place to start. It’s a bit like a painter working with a limited palette: You have both a solid foundation from which to begin your poem, and the challenge to create something using only what you have in front of you. And even if you’re having difficulty writing traditionally constructed poetry, the medium of found poetry can let you gain access to a vocabulary you didn’t know you needed.

Among the forms of found poetry is erasure. The writer finds something new to say in an existing text; in this case, an article from The Times. Blackout poetry is a style of erasure that eliminates the words around a poem you’ve found within the text to present both a piece of literature and a stark image of that literature on the same page.

You may be wondering: Am I really writing a poem if I’m using someone else’s work to start? Yes! Writing a good found poem — and in this case, an erasure — requires the poet to intervene on the source text. This means that your poem will say something different than the source text. It will be representative of your voice and your narrative.

The rules are fairly simple: In an erasure, you can only use the words that appear in the article you’ve chosen, and you have to use them in the order they appear. How you erase the words around your poem is up to you.

  • Ms. Anderson writes that “Creativity can be healing in difficult times.” Have you found this to be true in your own life? Have you ever used art to help yourself heal, offer yourself comfort or bring yourself joy in times of stress?

  • How important is creative expression in your life? What role does it play for you? How does it make you feel?

  • What is your earliest memory of artistic expression? Do you remember what inspired you to create? How did you feel during and after that moment of creativity?

  • Where do you find creative inspiration in your everyday life? As you overhear conversations on the street, do you begin to weave a story in your head? When you listen to music, do you feel inspired to write your own lyrics? Do you see poetry in nature?

  • An erasure poem is unique because you are writing something new using only what you can find in an existing text. Have you ever created another kind of found art? For example, a collage using photographs from a magazine or household objects to make a sculpture. What was the experience like? Did you find the constraints easier to work with rather than starting from scratch?

  • Try this: Create your own erasure poem, following the instructions in the article. If you don’t have a physical newspaper or a way to print out an article, you can use The Times’s online blackout poetry maker. For inspiration, take a look at the winners of our student blackout poetry contest from 2019. Then tell us: What was it like to create an erasure poem? Did your experience resonate with the one Ms. Anderson described in the article?

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