Summer Fun — Redacted Poems

I love books — this isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me.  I know other people who also love books who believe that books need to be kept pristine–no annotations, no highlights, no dogears.  I’m not one of those people.  I believe that reading is a conversation — sometimes with the author, sometimes with a character, but always with the words.  Therefore, I read with a pencil and fill the pages with questions, comments, circles, and squiggles.   One thing I don’t love about books is throwing them away.  Even when a book is falling apart it just breaks my heart to throw it in the trash.

Because I’m a teacher I have a lot of access to books that are falling apart.  And since I don’t like throwing them out, I started using them for crafts.  Most of these are easy and fun ideas and many of them are perfect for your kiddos during their summer vacation.  The first of these ideas is a redacted poem.  Redact is a verb that means to put into suitable literary form; revise; or, edit.  Using an old, falling apart book, writing a redacted poem continues the conversation you have with the literature you love.  It’s a lot of fun and allows for all types of creativity.

Another redacted poem from The Odyssey
Another redacted poem from The Odyssey



When writing a redacted poem, the first thing I do is randomly choose two pages from a book.  I skim the pages looking for the words that jump off the page at me.  Using a pencil I lightly box the words I like that are linked by idea or theme, forming a poem found within the original text.  Because I often play with the words I find, this step can take awhile.  Don’t be afraid; even if you’re not a poet, there’s a poem there just waiting for you to find it.

Once I am satisfied with my poem, it’s time to take everything out of the text that is not the poem.  You can use a number of different techniques for this.  I like to use different media to create a picture that adds meaning to the poem.  If you feel like you’re not artistic, you could simply black out all the text that is not the poem.  Or simply use different colored pens and a ruler to draw lines across the text. Use white out or crayons, water colors or colored pencils.  You are only limited by your creativity.

Now that it’s time (or almost time in my case) for summer vacation, this is a great rainy day project for your bored students.  This will wake up their imaginations and creativity.  There is no right or wrong way to do this project and poems are just waiting to be discovered within the text of your old, falling apart books. If you don’t have a ready supply like I do, use a cheap garage sale or thrift store book.

A new way to read The Odyssey.
A new way to read The Odyssey.

The master of redaction is Tom Phillips, a British artist.  He completely redacted an old Victoria novel he found in a used bookstore.  Check out his work Humument. Though he is an artist, many of the pages in his book are fairly simple and looking them over might spark your own imagination.




Redacted Poem 1




Every year I have my students write redacted poems and their creativity and imagination never cease to amaze me.  I know if you give yourself a chance your own inner poet will find the beauty in redacted poems.

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