Several months ago, I learned about the technique of erasure poetry. It is a technique in which one selects a text, and then erases words until a poem emerges from the text. The first poem that I wrote using this technique was received extremely well by my poetry group in my home town. I thought it was wonderful because they had found all sorts of things in the poem that of course I had never intended to put there. For me, it was like magic because I had written this wonderful poem with almost no effort at all. I was however somewhat disquieted by the thought that the poem and almost entirely written itself with almost no input from me. The second poem that I wrote using this technique was less well received then the first, but I still got some good comments about it. I was having some second thoughts about the technique, but last month I was totally blocked, and could not think of anything to write, so I thought I would try the technique again.

The poem the “Gathering” that you see in the previous post is my third erasure poem. It just emerged from the text. even though I find the language to be somewhat bizarre, the more I read it over, the more it started to make sense to me. I started to believe that it was really something good, even though an fact I had no idea really what it was about. The problem with this type of poetry, is that I often convince myself that if the language sounds good to me, than the poem must be good even though much of it makes no sense to me. Well, the poetry group at the library in my town did not understand the poem at all, and had basically nothing good to say about it. I guess I would say that this poem is a failure, and possibly an example of over-reliance on a technique. Just because a technique can almost always produce a poem does not necessarily mean that the poem will be a good one, and perhaps I am not critical enough when I used this technique.

I am still including it here because even though it does not make sense to most people, and in fact did not make much sense to me when I wrote it, as I read it again and again there is definitely a sense that does come through for me, so even though this poem is a failure it has allowed me to create something that I never would have been able to write just from the contents of my own mind. However, I guess the greatest danger of this technique is that one does not have control over the poem. In this sense, the poem almost writes itself. For this reason, this technique will always fascinate me even though there’s a great danger that it will not succeed, and that one will end up with nothing but nonsense instead of a good poem!