Sometimes the words don’t come. That’s when I make pictures. (And vice versa.)
Newspaper + Marker = Poetry. Buy the book.
I hate writing. What I really love is reading. I tell people I became a professional writer so I could be a professional reader. (Adam Phillips: “I had never had any desire to be a writer. I wanted to be a reader.”)
Always circling the same obsessions, I’ll often make a poem months (or years) after that would’ve fit perfectly into one of my books. This one would’ve gone into chapter three of Steal Like An Artist (“Write the book you want to read.”) Originally, it was going to go, “I read what I want to read,” as a screw you to people who try to make you feel guilty about what you read, but I decided I couldn’t pass this one up.
My first book, Newspaper Blackout, is now available as an eBook.
Word of caution: you need to have a reasonably large, preferably backlit screen to appreciate these things. If you just have an old Kindle or an eReader with a tiny screen, you’d be better off buying the paperback. (I haven’t tested every device, but I can say it looks really great in iBooks on an iPad. Maybe even better than on paper.)
The eBook also contains some “deleted scenes”—a dozen or so poems that got cut from the original manuscript—and a new afterword.
The holidays are coming up, which means that I’m getting a lot of email from folks who want to buy prints of my work to give as gifts.
Unfortunately, we won’t be selling prints until next year. (My wife Meg is working hard on planning the logistics—we’ll be selling signed, limited-edition screenprints of new and old poems.) Prints available now! In the meantime, here’s how to get a cheap print:
1. Buy a copy of Newspaper Blackout and a regular ol’ 8×10 frame.
2. Razor out a poem you like.
3. Frame and enjoy!
If you’re desperate for a gift, you can also get a signed copy of Steal Like An Artist from Bookpeople here in Austin, Texas. They ship everywhere. Order one here.
If you’d like to know when prints are available, sign up for my weekly newsletter.
Earlier this month, I posted a blackout on Instagram and a follower commented, “Sounds like the beginning of a good tale.”
That got me wondering if could tell a ghost story in blackouts for the rest of October—one blackout a day, each made from the September 29th edition of the NYTimes. (Which, as you can see above, just happened to have a lot of ghost references…)
What I ended up with was a long poem about sexually-frustrated ghosts. Not fine literature, but it was fun to make. Read the whole thing below. Happy Halloween!
Headed to the Pacific Northwest next week. First stop is Seattle to film a 90-minute interview with Chase Jarvis. The interview will be broadcast live, Wednesday, September 18th, 11:00am Seattle time (1pm Central, 2pm Eastern). If you have something you’re dying to know, we’ll be taking questions from the audience. Should be fun. Details here.
As always, follow me on Twitter for last-minute updates: @austinkleon
It’s a good ritual before I do my “real” work for the day. I use this little librarian stamp on the poem when I’m finished—if I’ve kept up with my routine, I only have to move the day slider one little notch:
They don’t always turn out:
Sometimes the bleed from the poem makes for interesting art on the other side:
I wanted to share a few of my favorites below…
Last week I hung my very first solo gallery show up at UNT on the Square in Denton, Texas.
All the pieces for the show were done in the five months after my son Owen was born—I made probably 60 or 70 poems, threw out at least half, and kept 30.
Most of the time I post poems to the blog or Instagram right after I make them. This is how I’ve always worked, and the whole reason the project exists—if it weren’t for online feedback and response, I would’ve stopped making these things a long time ago.
But for this show, I thought I’d experiment and work the way I imagine most artists working, toiling in the solitude and secrecy of my office, keeping the work to myself, editing at the very end, and doing the “big reveal” of the work at the show. (My wife, who reads all my stuff before anybody else, didn’t see most of the poems until a week or two before the show.) I was hoping maybe this way of working would teach me something.
What it taught me is that I hate working this way! I completely take for granted what working in the open online does for me — the feedback, the sense of connection, the sense that I’m moving towards something, etc.
Since NewspaperBlackout.com has been such a big part of the project, it was important to me that in addition to my own work this show have a section where people can make their own poems. The gallery has these cool moveable walls that we could play with, so we made the middle and focus point of the show this space with tables piled with newspaper, Sharpies, and binder clips that visitors can use to hang their own poems. Much to my delight, visitors who attended the opening were already taking advantage—it’ll be great to see how those walls fill up over the next couple of weeks.
I also wanted the space to feel really inviting, so we made a sign encouraging people to take photos of their favorite pieces and post them online with the #NewspaperBlackout hashtag:
The third and final section section of the show was a sort of last-minute idea we had — originally, I was going to project a slideshow of images from NewspaperBlackout.com, but I decided instead to project timelapse videos of me working on the show. (Again, the idea was to be inviting, to let visitors in on the process—I wanted the show to make you want to try out the method on your own.)
Here’s a timelapse video of us hanging the show:
Here’s a short video walkthrough of the opening:
And some more photos (see more on Flickr):
This was way, way more fun than I even though it would be, and I’m already thinking about what I’d do if I get the chance to do another show. Thanks so very much to everyone who came to the opening, and many, many thanks to Nicole Newland, Herbert Holl, and Meredith Buie for making it all happen. The show runs until May 6th if you’re up that way.
A while back, the folks at Wired asked me to make some blackouts from their recent design issue. I thought I’d play around with the whole “maker” movement, and went hunting in the magazine for all the instances of “make” and “maker” in the text.
The blackout process is tricky — often, the more I try to intentionally “do” something with it, the less spectacular the results. Like most poetry and art, the blackouts aren’t really editorials, either — so much of what they say is what the reader brings to them, or what title or captions they’re given, or what context they’re put in.
In the end, nothing really came of these two pieces, so I’m posting them here.