“Sculpting” Blackout Poetry

In Mount Madonna School’s ninth grade Creative Expression class, students have been experimenting with different creative processes and ways of constructing that require them to stretch outside of their comfort zone and work with unusual methods and materials.

“Working in this way can lead to new discoveries, happy accidents, flexibility and refreshed curiosity,” commented Angela Willetts, who co-teaches the course with Haley Campbell.

For a recent project students explored a process known as erasure, or “blackout” poetry. They began with a “found” text – printed language from any source, and using this text, the students “sculpted” a poem using only words from within the text. Students were given pages torn from a 1950s magazine, and they all went in totally different directions.

“The artist must find a way to visually obscure or subtract all the other language so only the words of the poem are emphasized,” explained Willetts. “This can be as simple as crossing out all the unnecessary words, but what a missed opportunity that would be! Instead, our artists were challenged to find ways to emphasize the poem in more visually interesting ways, perhaps even ways that relate to the meaning of their poem. One of the things we try to encourage in the Creative Expression class is the development of artists’ ‘habits of mind.’ Letting oneself play, experiment, and try new processes are skills essential to growth in the arts.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.