Blackout Poetry

Leanna Sanchez is a freshman meteorology and psychology double major at Valpo, and she’s been writing poetry since her freshman year of high school. She started off with free-verse where she developed her voice and style but eventually began to transition to other types.

Her favorite kind of poetry often changes based on how she’s feeling. Currently, she’s been mostly writing blackout poetry -- a form of poetry where the poet takes a piece of writing and “blacks out” many of the words. The words left that are not blacked out form a poem. Sanchez appreciates this form for its uniqueness.  

“It’s so different. The creative process is so different from other poetry,” she said.

Sanchez explains that she’s drawn to blackout poetry because of its interesting structure and the rules that come with it.  

“I feel like it makes me be more creative in a different kind of way,” she said.

For Sanchez, the process of creating blackout poetry involves creating a story.

“It works in the opposite way of free-form poetry. For blackout, for me, the words are already there,” she said. “So I have to go through and pick them out and try to string together a story. And that makes that open to interpretation, and it makes me have to work a lot harder.”

Sanchez’s inspiration is drawn from her own experiences, often negative ones. After starting from the basis of a personal experience, the work will branch out and begin to form its own life that may stray from Sanchez’s reality.

“I often find that I’m trying to process an emotion or feeling, usually a negative one.  And when I write my poetry, it’s a way for me to exaggerate what happened to me. And I feel like that makes for better art, and it also gives me a way to feel okay about it… Occasionally it’ll be completely fictional. But oftentimes, there’s that seed of truth in there.”  

Sanchez also said that she found reading other poetry inspiring and useful in developing her craft. When it comes to reading poetry, Sanchez prefers the classics, naming Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson as a few of her favorites. She particularly enjoys the works of Richard Siken, whose poetry about love and sexuality she describes as “raw and brutal.”

“I just find it so fascinating. It hits me so hard somehow.”  

Moving forward, Sanchez doesn’t see her poetry as being a career but does hope to be published someday. “There’s a huge poetry community on Instagram that’s made me realize it’s really easy to self-publish… I just want as many people as possible to be reading it.”  

While she isn’t currently pursuing a creative writing major, Sanchez acknowledged it as a possibility.

“It’s something I’m struggling with, I have a lot of different passions in different fields, and just picking the right one.”

When asked what she’d have to say to other poets, Sanchez advised,

Sanchez said her advice to other poets is to read and think creatively about this genre.

“Read a lot of poetry. Experiment. I think free-form is a big thing… but I think it’s really fun to experiment with… structures, like sonnets, or blackout… I would say experiment with other kinds of poetry because there’s a lot of it.”

To see more of Sanchez’s work, her Instagram is available @sweet.meaning.  

If you would like to nominate someone for an artist spotlight feature in The Torch, please contact torch@valpo.edu.

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