Kasandra's Reviews > Newspaper Blackout

Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon
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Oct 06, 2011

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Read in October, 2011

Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon

Kleon's debut is a collection of found poetry from the pages of The New York Times. It's gotten rave reviews and been featured on NPR and in The New Yorker, so clearly he's appealing to a wide audience with his work. He "blacks out" the words he doesn't want and keeps the rest, a technique used by many former writers, which he is kind enough to list in his forward.

This results in some pretty silly poems, and many truly funny ones. Unfortunately, when you use this technique, it's often hit-or-miss. Though many of these found "poems" hit, and made me giggle in delight, and at least one has inspired me to perhaps borrow from it and use lines as an epigram, they are often more like koans or sayings because of their very short length than whole poems, which I found aggravating. Lots of page space is taken up with black markings-out, which gives great visual appeal to what's left in some instances, but feels like a waste of trees, considering that the book is 173 pages long. I'm not sure why many of the pieces here were included; the books feels far too long. If it had been whittled down, I think it could have rated 4 stars from me. For humor alone, I almost want to rate it that high, but the novelty of the approach wears off quickly enough that you're left with only the words to contemplate, and though these may appeal to those who don't read or write much poetry, novelty alone isn't really enough to carry a book, in my opinion. (Plus, this technique isn't really 'novel' anymore, so though it can be charming, it's not new.)

That said, I did find the book as a whole a refreshing change of pace from my usual poetry picks, and I did find value in it and will keep it on my shelf for re-reading. I'd like to see what Kleon can do on his own as a poet, though I'm not certain he writes "normal"/unaltered poems.

If you like found poetry, you will enjoy these. And if you need a laugh, you'll find some in here. Kleon started these on his own blog, and has a website:
Newspaper Blackout

Here were some of my favorites:

Orientation

Love Letter (about halfway down the page, posted near Valentine's Day

Kickboxing
Lawyers
Dirty Word

(You really have to see these to appreciate them, which is why I'm loathe to try to duplicate/post one here, BUT.... Kleon's website does not turn up nearly any of the poems I liked when I search for them by title. So, here's one I enjoyed, especially because it's got some slant rhyme in it and "sounds" more like a poem):

The Heat

the Heat,
can be a little
startling to newcomers,
That's why you
have
nights
stuffed with ice and beers,
w h e, n
back home,"
is like a giant
freezer,"
we're sitting
in the
Park.
drinking
margaritas
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