This is the first time I’ve tried a blackout poem. They work by taking a page of text and then blacking it out until only the remaining words give you the poem.
I particularly like the potential for blackout poetry to subvert a text, creating something new and refreshing out of a text I disagree with. But that wasn’t really an approach I could go for here. However hard I might scour the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m just not going to find the vocabulary I would need for a poem on the Trinity.
I thought about digging through NT Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God. I have no doubt that I would find the right register of words, but I wasn’t sure I’d find them on a single page or in a form that lends itself to poetry.
And I then thought about a collection of essays by CS Lewis. My best friend gave me this book (edited by Lesley Walmsley, here on Amazon) a number of years ago. I figured if there was going to be a place with imaginative vocabulary on a single page, this would be a good place to look.
In the end, I chose It all began with a picture… published in the Junior Section of The Radio Times on 15 July 1960. It’s a short and sweet description of how Lewis was inspired to write the Narnia stories. The full text is accessible on the Epistle of Dude blog.
(And FYI in the unlikely event you don’t know anything about these stories: Narnia is a magical land where there is a powerful lion called Aslan [fun fact: also the Turkish word for ‘lion’]. Aslan is Jesus. In literary terms it doesn’t make sense to say Aslan represents Jesus, because Lewis wrote him as Jesus. And in the last page of the last book Aslan no longer appears to the heroes as a lion, and gets referred to as Him with a capital H. As I say, Aslan is Jesus.)
It’s hard being constrained by the page of text in front of you. The more you black out, the less you say; but the less you black out, the less impact each word has. It’s a game of compromise, striking the balance between being artistic and understandable.
But I think the end result is a celebration of both Lewis’ work and the Trinity.
A blackout poem on the Trinity
The text of the poem is this:
start thinking about
the story is finished,
One I am seven and three
not just pictures.
Then one day,
He pulled the whole story together,
in a sense, I know very little
could you tell anyone
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Photo by me. Made using Procreate.