creative writing / National Poetry Month / Poetry / Uncategorized

Blackout with the Count

I recently discovered blackout poetry when working with a group of AP junior high English students.  This is a fun, creative activity utilizing old books (that might be falling apart), and is accomplished by finding words on the page that can fit together to form a poem. The remaining words are blacked out into various designs.  I didn’t do to well on the design part, so I didn’t keep my page.  Below is the poem that I came up with, and below that is an example of another page of blackout poetry.  This would make great journal art for those people who keep writing/art journals, and it is just in time for National Poetry Month. Otherwise it does not seem that kids are too happy reading The Count of Monte Cristo, which I admit, I have never read myself.  I don’t know, is it overrated?  Should we be dusting off old volumes and requiring kids to read them?  Should we require them to read classics and such but maybe not this one?  Should I just shut up and go read it myself?  Smile…happy spring!


Dantes, navigator

maneuvered his yacht

island round

calm sea of news

nothing here is expected

trusting no one

using every means of disguise

to boldly sail

into the harbor

going ashore

without difficulty

blackout poetry

poetry month


22 thoughts on “Blackout with the Count

  1. Does the “design” have to match the poem’s theme? That would be a challenge! As for “the Count” I read it when i was 12 or 13, and probably have re-read it a dozen times since. I have it in my Project Gutenberg collection and will read it again. Same goes for The 3 Musketeers. Also read “Les Miserables” – the entire unabridged collection at 13 when my father allowed me to borrow the books from his collection. It helped being able to read them in both, the original French, then in English. I preferred the French versions. Should Jr. High English students be encouraged to read such classics? Well, apart from the fact that’s it’s good English, they also might make them curious about the history behind the stories. That would be where you’d want them to go.The more we learn about our past, the better equipped to understand the present and perhaps get some idea of what the future must bring. History does have the habit of repeating itself.

    • I don’t think the design has to match the theme, but that is a cool idea, and might also be rather challenging. The kids did some neat spiral designs with colored pencils. They did moan and groan about the book, but I do agree we need to read them. I read Beowulf in 7th grade. I have also read many others as required in college. I think we have to figure out a way to make them more interesting 🙂

      • Making old books more interesting to modern kids… I wouldn’t know where to start, except to mention the great romantic aspects, and of course the swashbuckling in Dumas’ stories. As for “Les Miserables” – Cosette and Jean Valjean are the quasi perfect heroes, a classical tale of deep spiritual struggle, redemption, compassion, misery of poor and street people, bloody revolution, martyrdom and crazy love: what’s NOT to like? Of course things are very different now. I grew up on a homestead where electricity was only something you read about and it meant nothing. I read those books by sunlight and coal oil lamp light during the long-drawn out nights of northern Alberta (Canada) while feeding logs to the kitchen stove and listening to the howling blizzard wind outside. No TV, no radio, no other distractions – not even pets: animals were never allowed in the house. So we read… and read and there was never enough time. I always dreaded the “Lights out!” call. Yes, different times, almost different worlds. Haven’t read Beowulf, but I did read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Mallory’s (?) Le Morte d’Arthur. I’ll look up Beowulf on Project Gutenberg, see what I can find.

      • Yes it is very different now. I read a lot also, but with a blazing sun instead of howling blizzard…can’t take the cold, ha ha. My sisters were quite a bit older than me and I spent a great deal of time on my grandparents’ farm which was isolated. I read Chaucer’s Canterbury tales also, and we did a play in high school and I was the queen 🙂 I enjoyed the tales very much. I’ve also read Dickens and Melville (Moby Dick). Yes, there is so much in the classics, and I agree overall that there is great merit in kids reading them today.

      • plus it would show them what English looked like before it became texting and tweets! But come to think of it, Chaucer may as well be texting!

  2. I’ve definitely been frustrated by reading certain classics in school and there are others that I was really glad I read. I never read The Count of Monte Cristo either so I couldn’t pass judgement. I did read your poem though…excellent!

    • Sure thing. All you need is an old book (maybe from a thrift store, second -hand store.) You can rip out the pages, and read. See if you can fit random sentences together to form a poem. Black out the rest of the page. You can also black it out and create artistic designs on the page that look really cool.

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