What it is:
Erasure poetry is created by starting with an existing text and erasing bits (paragraphs, words, letters, punctuation) in such a way that the words left behind take on new shapes and meanings.
For the first Geist Erasure Poetry Contest, we posted an excerpt from Roughing It in the Bush by Susanna Moodie, a memoir written in 1852. Prizes were awarded to the poems that interacted with the original text in unique ways, commenting on undercurrents in Moodie’s writing while breaking away from it, or building something strange and new out of what she left behind. This year, we invite you (with blessings from the author) to experiment with an excerpt fromHow Should a Person Be?, a creative non-fiction novel by celebrated Canadian author Sheila Heti.
How it works:
1. Copy the passage from How Should a Person Be?, posted below, into your word processor. This is your Erasure Text.
2. Erase! The leftover words and letters will form your poem. (Do this any way you like and be creative.)
3. The ONLY RULE is do not change the order of words or letters. You can combine leftover words and letters however you see fit, just as long as they appear in the same order as in the original text.
4. Shape the text however you like. Or, leave it as is. Add punctuation and capitalization if the spirit moves you.
5. Add a title: it does not have to be from the Erasure Text.
6. Print your entry and send it to us. There is no word limit.
Be sure to sign up for the Geist newsletter to receive important contest updates and annoucements.
We’ll also be hosting a series of live chat Facebook Q+A sessions that will be announced through the Geist newsletter.
First Prize: the Geist Erasure Trophy and $600
Second Prize: $250
Third Prize: $150
Honourable Mentions: Swell Geist gifts
All winning entries will be published in Geist and at geist.com.
More than one prize per category may be awarded.
Deadline: August 1, 2012
Entry Fee: $20
Includes a one-year subscription to Geist, Canada’s favourite literary magazine.
All additional entries are $5.
How to enter:
You can enter online here.
Or, send your poem, with a cover letter, $20 entry fee and note about how you found out about the contest to:
Geist Erasure Contest
#210, 111 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1H4
Good luck and happy writing!
The Erasure Text: From How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
I can tell that a lot of young people today are interested in being famous. I’ve often heard that while young people used to want to be doctors and ballerinas and firemen, now they want to win a singing competition. I do too.
In an hour Margaux’s going to come over and we’re going to have our usual conversation. Before I was twenty-five, I never had any friends, but the friends I have now interest me non-stop. Margaux complements me in interesting ways. She paints my picture and I record what she is saying. We do whatever we can to make the other one feel famous.
How should a person be? I sometimes wonder about it, and I can’t help answering like this: a celebrity. But for all that I love celebrities, I would never move somewhere that celebrities actually exist. My hope is to live a simple life, in a simple place, where there’s only one example of everything.
By a simple life, I mean a life of undying fame that I don’t have to participate in. I don’t want anything to change, except to be as famous as one can be, but without that changing anything. Everyone would know in their heart that I am the most famous person alive—but not talk about it too much. And for no one to be too interested in taking my picture, for they’d all carry around in their heads an image of me that was unchanging, startling, and magnetic. No one has to know what I think, for I don’t really think anything at all, and no one has to know the details of my life, for there are no good details to know.
It is the quality of fame one is after here, without any of its qualities.
In this way, I should be satisfied with being famous to three or four of my friends. And yet it’s an illusion. They like me for who I am, and I would rather be liked for who I appear to be, and for who I appear to be, to be who I am.
We are all specks of dirt, all on this earth at the same time. I look at all the people who are alive today and think, These are my contemporaries. These are my fucking contemporaries! We live in an age of some really great blow-job artists. Every era has its art form. The nineteenth century, I know, was tops for the novel.
I just do what I can not to gag too much. I know boyfriends get really excited when they can touch the soft flesh at the back of your throat. At these times, I just try to breathe through my nose and not throw up on their cock. I did vomit a little the other day, but I kept right on sucking. Soon, the vomit was gone, and then my boyfriend pulled me up to kiss me.
Aside from blow jobs, though, I’m through with being the perfect girlfriend, just through with it. Then if he’s sore with me, let him dump my ass. That will just give me more time to be a genius.
One good thing about being a woman is we haven’t too many examples yet of what a genius looks like. It could be me. There is no ideal model for how my mind should be. For men, it’s pretty clear. That’s the reason you see them trying to talk themselves up all the time. I laugh when they won’t say what they mean so the academies will study them forever. I’m thinking of you, Mark Z., and you, Christian B. You just keep peddling your phony-baloney genius crap, while I’m up giving blow jobs in heaven.
Excerpt from the prologue (pages 2-4), published by House of Anansi Press, 2010.