Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Taking the Advice: Stealing Like an Artist

Austin Kleon is an advocate of the remix.  In his bestselling book of poetry, Newspaper Blackout, he redacts newspapers in black marker, creating poetry out of the words that remain.

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, he makes the case that we all steal from each other. We steal out of love, not vindictiveness.  Remixing is a nod to the genius that has come before us, a tip of the cap to that which we find amazing and want to incorporate into our own lives.  

Austin gives a nice summary of his work in this short talk from TEDxKC:

In order to keep the tradition alive, I have made my own Newspaper Blackout poem.  I plan to show this idea to my students this year.  It is an interesting way of looking at textbooks.  I imagine copying pages from the textbook and letting the students create something better, or if not better, something different.  It should be easy to compile and publish the poems in a class anthology. 

Original article take from the community newspaper someone left in my driveway

Circling words and phrases that really stood out to me; they left an impression.

After the blackout; the remaining words are what became the poem below

Sunday Morning

Mischief strikes 
      in trolling cars
Residents awoke
      to shattered damage
Sheriff's deputies wore
     on more and more folks
Mischief officials identified
     thousands of BB gun(s)
$5,000 in rewards to anyone

What I enjoy most about this poem is the twist it takes at the end; rewarding those involved.  

A great resource for teachers to share with their students comes from the New York Times. This interactive link allows students to create black out poetry online.

For more in depth lesson ideas and full unit descriptions pick up a copy of Stand Up! Speak Out! The Social Action Curriculum for Building 21st-Century Skills available from Prufrock Press and Amazon and Barnes & Noble


  1. I attended your presentation in SBISD, and about 2 weeks prior, I had purchased this book. I teach art to elementary students and love how the book walks through the creative process (ups and downs). I can see using the black out poetry to inspire an image created by my students.

    1. Hey Jennifer,
      It's great to hear from you again. You're right, its a great way to introduce students to the idea of recombining and mixing to create something new.

      Remember the Ken Robinson video we watched: Pablo Picasso said, "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

      Being creative is not easy, I am so glad you're students have a teacher like you to help them stay creative. Please share your perspective throughout the year, would love to see how the students progress.