While scholars and cultural critics discuss the inundation of media in the age of the Internet, Obliterations—a book of erasures of New York Times articles—explores how individuals can take the same cultural/political moment and internalize, personalize and interpret it in unique ways.
Every day we are forced to integrate the world’s news into our personal lives; we all have to decide what parts of the flood of news resonate with us and what we need to turn away from, out of necessity or sensitivity. Obliterations is a collection of erasure poems that use The New York Times as their source textssprings from that seemingly immediate process of personalizing news information. By cutting, synthesizing, and arranging existing news items into new poems, the erasure process creates a link between the authors’ poetic sensibilities and the supposedly more “objective” view of the newsmakers. Each author used the same articles but wrote separate erasures without seeing the other’s versions, highlighting the wonderful similarities and differences that arise when two works—or any two people with individual tastes and lenses—share the same stories.
“In the spirit of Michaelangelo who saw the angel in the marble and carved until he set it free, I contend that these poems are not so much the result of something that has been erased (a word which invariably bears the unfortunate baggage of annulment and invalidity), but rather they are the consequence of a craftswoman’s—two craftswomen’s—steady hands, the wisdom of her chisel, and the impeccable eye of the best kind of artist: the one who can see through the medium and into the message. What especially sets these poems apart from other erasures I’ve encountered is their absolute resistance to abstraction. These are as concrete as garden sculptures.”—Jill Alexander Essbaum, New York Times bestselling author of Hausfrau
“A long time ago, JP and Heather were students in my poetry class. They were pretty advanced and super-prolific, and, frankly, they were annoying the hell out of me. So I decided to keep them busy with some impossible extra-credit work. They were young, and I knew they’d do whatever I said. ‘Write a book,’ I told them, ‘without doing any writing. Write it together, but separately. The poems you somehow produce must complement and complicate each other, but no looking at each other’s poems. Heather, you must seek coherence. Jessica, seek strangeness. Do that for a while, then do the opposite. Have fun, but also reveal fundamental things about the ways Americans receive information and remake it in their own image. When one of you composes a poem called “Vanish,” the other must compose “Chicken Ensues.”‘ I told them all of this and figured I’d seen the last of them. Twenty years later, damned if they didn’t bring me this book. A+”—Eric McHenry, Poet Laureate of Kansas, author of Potscrubber Lullabies