White Shadows and Online Erasures

On my adventure researching erasure texts, I met a lovely little altered booklet of 42 pages that I noted last post, A Little White Shadow by poet Mary Ruefle. Part of the appeal is certainly the size: 4 1/2"w x 5 3/4"h (11.5cm x 14.5cm) and the vintage look. The paper is tan, the type is an oldstyle. She's whited out the words she didn't need—which are most of them—and this creates a shadowy white page. The words she's chosen make sense and have literary and emotional power as well; the lack of these is often a weakness in erasures.

Ruefle's book felt so much like an artist book, or facsimile of one, that I wondered what else Wave Books published. I felt energized browsing their website. Not only do they publish some very interesting looking texts, they have a project online where you can make your own erasures from copyright free source texts, then save them, email them, or save them to their archives. I tried one out with a passage from Moby Dick. These are screen shots; if you really want to save your erasure, you need to create an account and sign in. You click on words to gray them out, but you can click on them again and bring them back.

Written out without the source, it might look like this. I think the spaces are important if you retype the lines.

Call           Some
        little                                       nothing
     to interest me on shore,      I would
     see the watery                way I have of
         growing grim                whenever it is    damp
                    in my soul;     I find myself
pausing before                       every
hand            it requires a strong  
        --  then,
I can          substitute for        a
philosophical flourish              ; I quietly
very nearly the same feelings toward the ocean         .

It could be edited down even further, I think. Some lines I probably would not have written by myself but find interesting: "I would see the watery way I have of growing grim"  and "damp in my soul" and "pausing before every hand." Working with this erasure was a fun way to stretch.

Exploring erasures can lead you to connections you hadn't made before, can help you write when you can't think of anything to say, and can get you going without much risk. They can be exercises, or can be refined to creative expression you want to share. Take it seriously, make it absurd—whatever your approach, I hope you enjoy it!


Oh I love this! I sent a link to my mom ,,,laughing of course because as a kid I used to take her paperbacks and do this with a black marker and make up my own text and she'd HAVE A FIT! She loved your post too.