Updated July 22, 2015
SHARE is a bi-monthly event in Portland, Oregon that brings a small group of artists together to create in a shared space. Artists have two hours to create from a one-word prompt.
Going into SHARE, I knew I would start with creating a blackout poem aka erasure. It’s recent practice I’ve taken up inspired by lots of makers on Instagram. A blackout poem is created from an existing page of text or prose. You create the poem by selecting words from the page and blacking out the rest. (Austin Kleon wrote a bestseller, Newspaper Blackout, some credit with helping to spur a blackout poetry movement.) I’ve been doing these for a few weeks, either as stand alone pieces or as inspiration for something else, another writing or a physical improvisation.
I brought with me several thrift store self-help books I’d picked up for use in my blackout poems. I brought my markers and an oil cloth to mark on. I brought several books on physical improvisation, thinking that I might be inspired to create an improv or an improv score.
With FIRE as the prompt, I started paging through the book I thought most likely would have something that inspires fire. I chose Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. If you’ve ever taken a personality test like a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Strength Deployment Inventory, this book has a similar bent. It helps one assess personality traits by profiling 34 common talents, such as Adaptability, Arranger, Futuristic and Woo. (
Can’t wait to Here’s my blackout poem for one page of the “Woo” section!) I thought about which of these strengths might identify as fire. The very first one in the book is “Achiever” and I thought, that’s the one, bingo. It literally had “fire” in the text.
When I improvise from a prompt, I like to take the prompt and move a step or two away from it, so as not to hit the prompt on the nose within the improv. With that in mind, here’s how my blackout poem turned out:
help drive need
some form of burning rekindles
relentless whisper brings energy jolt
it is power
it is moving
From that, I found myself drawn to the word whisper. But I also wanted to see what would happen if I paired different words within the poem together:
“Power whisper” jumped out at me. Everything up until then had been pretty straightforward, kinda serious, earthy. I wanted to see if I could create something more funny. From there I did a free write, which I’m not going to share in full. Here’s are two excerpts one from the very beginning and one from the very end:
I love the idea of a whisper in relation to fire. The quietness of it. It’s like the power of silence. Power whisper? Like a power ballad? I imagine a person talking in a power whisper…
… could be someone with extremely high status, who says very little, but when says something it’s a power whisper where you have to lean in dangerously close to hear. Like a Wilson Fisk. Where am I going with all this? What do I do with this?
Yes, this is where I got a little stuck. I took a break and enjoyed some almond thins and more beer. I went and bugged my pal Lena who was getting into some interesting things. After we chatted, she offered for me to draw from her Science Tarot deck for inspiration. That was just the kick I needed.
Gathering more inspiration from my tarot draw, I started improvising a two person scene on paper. I had two characters in mind, and at the time, I created the script first and then wrote brief character outlines. Below I’m sharing the characters first and then the scene, to help you picture the characters. I was imagining a “post-apocalyptic sit com” kind of genre. (Not only did I have that Daredevil character Wilson Fisk in mind, I think that the recent hubbub over the impending earthquake has been blanketing my mood this week.)
- speaks in slow whispers
- likewise, moves very slowly, very little
- seems old
- loves to be outdoors
- never sits down, only stands or lies
- meticulous dress
- warm, soft
- voice is deep and lyrical, almost a song
- slow moving, grand gestures
- has a feline quality
- almost always seated
- never leaves her space
- cold on the outside, warm inside
Maven: Thank you for this water.Empress: Not many places offer it for free anymore.Maven: You’re a good friend.Empress: An old one.Maven: Yes, I can hardly remember.Empress: Because you’re wasted.Maven: Because I’m wasting away.Empress: What was your last meal?Maven: Peas. Four peas from one pod.Empress: When?Maven: Yesterday. Lucky me, eh?Empress: An actual pea pod? Like from a plant?Maven: I know, seems impossible.Empress: I had peas, too, but from a can. I’m jealous.Maven: Here, a blueberry.
Empress: You’re a good friend.
I wrote another scene, which I didn’t share at SHARE, but I’ll include here:
Maven: I’m glad you came to walk with me.Empress: I’m scared shitless.Maven: The last time you were out?Empress: 33 days.Maven: I see. I’ve walked this path for the past 33 days.Empress: Trying to make me feel better?Maven: Just saying.Empress: I don’t see any people.Maven: I haven’t seen any people in 33 days.Empress: You’re shitting me.Maven: Ah, you’re right. I did see a car, I think, in the distance over there.Empress: Maybe it’s been more than 33 days.Maven: Yes, perhaps it has.
Empress: I should get out more often.