Blackout poem. Text reads: Don't waste time trying to think of the future. The trouble is that the Enemy can argue too; once it is awake, oh, that aboninable ordinary moment. I was such a fool at best I brightened up considerably, with a fresh mind whatever odd ideas might come to head when shut up alone with books, just could be true. a narrow escape

A Blackout Poem from Screwtape Chapter 1

 Don’t waste time trying to think of the future.
The trouble is that the Enemy can argue too
once it is awake


oh, that abominable ordinary moment.
I was such a fool
at best

I brightened up considerably;
with a fresh mind
whatever odd ideas might come to head when shut up alone with books
just could be true.


a narrow escape

This is the first time I’ve ever tried blackout/erasure poetry. As I mentioned in my introduction post to this project, transformative works – usually fanfiction – have been very important to me since I was a preteen. Generating something from my readings here just felt right, but I knew fanfiction wasn’t the avenue I wanted to explore with this text. But blackout poetry felt correct, so I copied the bulk of Chapter 1 and sat down with it for a bit until I found a through line that spoke to me.

The hardest part of typing it up was where to put the line breaks. Depending on how you break it up, I think it could be either a hopeful or a cynical poem. As I have it written above, I see the escapism of reading, imagination, and introspection as a reprieve from the arguments of the Enemy. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, something to look forward to in our narrow escape. However, when grouped slightly differently:

Don’t waste time trying to think of the future.
The trouble is that the Enemy can argue too; once it is awake


oh, that abominable ordinary moment.
I was such a fool at best
I brightened up considerably, with a fresh mind
Whatever odd ideas might come to head when shut up
alone with books,
just could be true. a narrow escape

Suddenly the pursuit of an escape feels like the foolish moment, rather than the spark that can free us. Even looking just at the shape of the texts, when I condense the poem into two stanzas it looks more cramped, there’s more of an oppressive feeling of the words shoved together.

I used to love poetry when I was a teenager. I let that love lapse while I was in college, and I’m only now starting to come back to it. I feel like I’m relearning a language I used to speak. It’s just on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite find it. Not just the writing of it, but reading poetry feels alien as well. This is the first time in a while where writing a poem has felt like an exploration rather than a homework assignment I can’t figure out. It’s making me want to pick up more poetry. I recently grabbed Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook at Half Price Books and I think I’m going to start working my way through it. Please share your poetry recs! I’m eager to dive back in.

It’ll be interesting to see what other ways I find to connect with the text as we move into the next chapters.

Let me know how you would break up the lines from the blackout poem image. I think one of the interesting things about the form is that it invites several simultaneous valid readings based on where you put the emphasis. I prefer the hopeful reading, myself. And if you decide to do your own transformative work based on the same text, I would love to see it.

I wasn’t expecting this sacred reading experiment to connect with me so soon, but this has already become a very personal, vulnerable, and weird project. I’m into it, but it’s also intimidating. I’m excited to see where it leads.

Homework update and next step

I wrote up all my Christmas card responses as homework from my Lectio Divina reading. I have to send them out next time I run to the PO Box to check my mail, but the hard part is done. I probably wouldn’t have written any follow up cards if it hadn’t been for the reading, let alone to my realtor and my conservative relatives. I’m trying to take the calls to action from this experiment seriously, but it’s still hella uncomfortable.

Tomorrow or Saturday I’m going to move on to Chapter 2. I shuffled up my Sigil Deck and pulled Fear, so that’s the theme for this next chapter. I can’t wait to see how Fear manifests in this reading, and what I might take from it.

Thanks for following along. See you all soon. <3

Last thought

Do people generally name their blackout / erasure poems? Giving things titles has always been difficult for me. I wonder what I would call this one.

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