Attempting a Literary Redemption: Blackout Poetry

This quarantine period has been for me—like most of the rest of us—extremely boring and naturally unstimulating. It’s led me to start on a number of projects, one of which began with me fishing out old books and thinking of the stories behind each one (books are never just books to me). In particular, I found my A Level literature texts: Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and Shakespeare’s King Richard III.

My A Level literature experience was truly horrid, and it nearly led to me giving up literature as a subject for the rest of my life. Not only were the texts chosen dry and cryptic, our teacher was anything but a teacher. He’d literally spend every single lesson reading the texts verbatim in a slow, droning voice—some lessons, he’d forget where he’d left off previously and re-read the same section, refusing to believe anyone who’d try to convince him otherwise. When he had finished the texts, he took off, giving the excuse that he had to arrange some soccer games for the other teachers , essentially giving us ZERO guidance on actual literary analysis and writing.

Needless to say, I’m truly grateful for the unexpected turnaround my life took with me being accepted into literature (English) at university despite it being my last choice! It really could not have turned out any better. Honestly, I don’t think my literature texts were all that bad—I’m sure there are many Wide Sargasso Sea and King Richard III fans out there. And I’m sure that given proper insights into them, I might even have enjoyed them. A good teacher and proper guidance makes all the difference.

This quarantine, or lockdown, one of my projects is to attempt a literary redemption. I plan to redeem my A Level texts—and experience—an (alternate) page at a time by “rewriting” them blackout poetry. It certainly isn’t my best poetry, given that I have to work with whatever is on the page at hand, but it’s been a fun challenge that lets me improve my blackout poetry skills. Here are the ones that I’ve done so far, starting with the pages of Wide Sargasso Sea:

The Redemption of Literature

come and see
she told me:
the bad
was now a thing of the past
gone for always

It Only Gets Better

she grew
at last
beautiful
wild
out of reach
and strong

Be Here Now

She never discovered why
—Does it matter?
These things happened
long ago.
Stay with me
and be
at peace.

Gold in the Sun

I found her
every morning
sparkling
and gold in the sun.

And by the end of the first week, as the quarantine crazies set in, I had to get this one in, just for the laughs and the honesty.

Quarantine: One Week In

I had
in truth
run wild
and nobody care.

This next is one from my King Richard III text which I put in a letter to a friend, in a slightly different style:

In the Face of a Dire Catastrophe

in the face of
a dire catastrophe
we will resist
cursèd thoughts
and prove
determinèd
and brave to the end.

I hope these will inspire you to get started on something creative yourself and that you guys are taking this opportunity to read more and get physically and mentally healthier!

As always, happy reading!

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