I’m excited to announce my erasure poem “Redacted” is published online at the Erase-Transform Poetry Project. They are currently taking submissions of found poetry hidden in the inaugural speech. “Beginning with the inauguration speech, we seek submissions that take that rhetoric and draw out life-affirming poetry.”
I was curious how and why this project began, so I asked editor Kelly Lenox a few questions to find out. See my interview with Lenox and a link to submission guidelines below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about Erase-Transform Poetry Project.
LENOX: The Erase-Transform Poetry Project offers writers, artists, and others a chance to transform the inauguration speech into poetry—a radical revision by any measure—using the process of erasure. Take a Sharpie, scissors, paint, or your preferred instrument, and eliminate whatever is getting in the way of hidden truths. The project website, Erase-Transform.ink, is in the form of a blog, and we review submissions on a rolling basis. Next year we will likely offer a new text, but for now, it’s the inauguration speech.
HOPKINSON: How/why was Erase-Transform Poetry project originally started?
LENOX: It was inspired by the intense feelings of despair, anger, and frustration that artists and writers I know (as well as myself) experienced during and after the election, and especially as the inauguration approached. It was scary because poets and artists are the ones who can light the way for the larger society. That makes their despair particularly threatening. The idea of writing—or painting, or footstomping—erasure poems from the inauguration speech occurred to me as potentially cathartic and, at its best, prophetic. Erasure poetry is by definition transformative, and the chance to erase what one dreams of eliminating seemed too good to keep to myself.
As to timing, the 2017 AWP conference came fast on the heels of the inauguration, and it was held in Washington, D.C. By the time the idea gelled, time was short. I work for the federal government, and my first concrete action was to visit my ethics officer and find out what, if any, trouble this would cause me. Thankfully, I still have freedoms and I was told that the project doesn’t cross any lines. But I do keep a high wall between this project and my day job.
Pamela Taylor, a poet and friend, agreed to serve as co-editor. An artist I know, Cathy Dills, agreed to design postcards in a very short time frame. She wouldn’t take payment but did let me crochet her a pink pussy hat, which she wore to the women’s march. And I built my first blog site, using WordPress—all of this in a week or two. To be sure I’d receive the postcards in time for AWP, I had to place the order before I’d even finished the website. Consequently, as my partner drove us up to DC, I was marking out “coming soon” and adding in the website address, as the erasure project’s first erasure.
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
LENOX: We are seeking both text poems and visual erasure poems. You can Google “erasure poems” and look at images to see just a fraction of what is possible visually. We really liked your approach of portraying the redaction. That both reinforces the concept of erasure, and also alludes to the way political speech plays with truth.
HOPKINSON: What do you wish you’d see submitted, but hasn’t come in?
LENOX: Visual poems, for one. Your “Redaction” moves in that direction and was most welcome. Plus, as Pam said, it’s rather like a subliminal reading of the text! We’re also looking for deeper transformations—using the text to create something wholly new. Pam and I discussed this question and she framed it nicely. “Beauty you can make from the words, not necessarily the beauty in the words.” Think magnetic poetry. Pam wrote a love poem, which is probably the most extensive transformation yet. My inspiration in launching the project was that if we can take the raw material of that text, which was not at all beautiful in my ears, and create original poems that shine with life, how much more can we do in our lives, our communities, and our nation? We need to rant, to vent, and then to get busy. The infinite transformations that are possible from this one source text are a marvel.
We have had submissions that added words, rearranged words, and put parts of words together. The project imposes no restrictions or doctrines regarding erasure. Whatever it takes for you to transform politics into art.
HOPKINSON: What are some of your favorite lit mags/journals?
LENOX: Rhino, the Cincinnati Review and Asheville Poetry Review for the poetry, and Ecotone for the range of work and the exploration of themes. Rattle is doing a great job of blending the traditional litmag format with opportunities offered by the internet. An exciting new journal is EcoTheo Review, which probes the intersection of ecology, theology and literature—kind of the Venn diagram of my passions.
HOPKINSON: Where can folks send submissions?
LENOX: Submissions and any other inquiries can be sent to erase.transform [at] gmail [dot] com. Before submitting, please check out the submissions page [http://www.erase-transform.ink/submission-guidelines/] for a few guidelines, and for the link to whitehouse.gov, where you can download the text.
HOPKINSON: If someone has a question, how can they contact you?
LENOX: erase.transform [at] gmail [dot] com
DEADLINE: Always open
FORMAT: digitally online
SUBMISSION FEE: None
FORMS: erasure/found poems in text and visual formats