This exercise gets you to freewrite for the express purpose of deleting almost every single word, sparing a few here and there.
What is an erasure?
An erasure is a kind of poem that you make by taking a page of typewritten material and erasing most of it. The words that you leave are the words of your erasure poem.
That’s an erasure poem.
Most often, people make erasures by finding an old book, one whose words won’t be missed, and taking white-out or a black marker and covering up all the words except those that you want to keep. The kept words then shine through the covered-up material and express new life. You read only those words and there is your poem.
You can also make erasures of your own material. It can be any material. An old weird textbook, a pamphlet about the real estate in a new subdivision, or something you yourself have written.
This exercise is particularly liberating for those writers among us who feel oppressed by a strong inner critical voice.
- Freewrite several pages of written material. As with any freewriting, the job here is to write without stopping. You can write about anything. It can be wonderful material and it can be complete nonsense.
- Write without stopping, do not judge what you write, and don’t go back and make corrections.
- Fill the pages. That is your job.
- When you’re done, read back through your writing. If there is some material you would like to keep from this freewritten material, now is your chance. Copy it and put that stuff elsewhere, because the freewritten material itself will almost entirely get covered up, erased.
- If you typed this material, print it out. If you wrote it by hand, you’re good to go.
- Get some white-out or a black marker or something that will work to cover up large areas of text.
- Cover up everything but what you want to show through.
There you have it. An erasure from your own freewritten material.
It can be very cathartic to erase your own material. It can also be really interesting and transformative to take something that you wrote and turn it into something completely different.
No longer bound to the meaning and sentence structure and flow that was there on the page, now only a few words show through and they exist in a very different context.
That, at least, is a basic way of making erasures. The whole world is open to you regarding how you would like to apply your sense of spontaneity and unique vision to the exercise.
Mary Ruefle’s Melody