An Amateur Versifier Wields a Sharpie, and Other News for April at the Porcupine’s Quill

Every year, we here at the Porcupine’s Quill celebrate National Poetry Month by shining a spotlight on the poetry genre. This April, we’ll be sharing blog content, emails and social media posts meant to get you excited about all the great poets and poetry collections we have had the pleasure of publishing over the years. Stay tuned for giveaways and guest posts all month long to whet your poetic appetites!

In Poetry Months past, we’ve talked about the joys of poetic consumption and the calming effects of reading poetry, but what about the pleasures of penning a stanza or two?

Well, I’m no poet, so when it comes to poetic experimentation, I have to think outside the box. To give myself the thrill of creativity without the anxiety starting from scratch, I decided to try my hand at a form that doesn’t require a person to pluck words out of thin air and arrange them in a sensible fashion. I decided to try blackout poetry.  

Blackout poetry is just what it says on the tin. You take a page of writing—a newspaper article, a paragraph from a magazine, a page from a book—and black out words until you’re left with something that resembles a poem. Since you’re working with the words provided, the trick is to keep enough of the right words to make a coherent “poem”.

How hard could it be, right?

Well, I decided to give it a shot. I happened to have a scrap proof page from Robert Reid and Wesley W. Bates’s Casting into Mystery (page 71 if you’re curious about my starting point). After a quick first draft in pencil, I uncapped my Sharpie and went to town. Here are the fruits of my labour:

Those who love literature recognize the poem was bait. The book remains.
History is not without mystery.
A full book of all time is so often misinterpreted by so many.

The results won’t win any awards, but I had fun indulging my poetic fancy … and potentially getting high on Sharpie fumes.

Give it a try—and be sure to share your results with the class!

What’s happening this month…


The press has been humming at the shop in Erin! Next up is DA 90, the spring/summer 2022 issue of the Devil’s Artisan. The issue will feature a positively enthralling piece written by PQL’s intrepid publisher Tim Inkster about his experiences publishing the work of the late Canadian poetry icon P. K. Page. There are so many great stories in this piece, conveyed with Tim’s signature dry humour and keen wit.  I highly recommend you make a mental note to pick up a copy when they are available!

In Fergus.

We’re finally dipping our toes back into the waters of in-person events (knock on wood). If you’re keen to see what we’ve been working on the past two years, stop by the Wellington County Writers’ Festival on Saturday April 23 at the Wellington County Museum and Archives. Also attending the event will be Rob Reid and Wesley Bates, whose book Casting into Mystery expresses fondness and appreciation for the waterways in the region.

In the world.

April 13 is National Bookmobile Day. I have great respect for the operators of these roving embassies of literature. You do important work, people!

Somewhat related, April 16 is National Librarian Day. Librarians do so much more than just shelve books! Let them know how much you appreciate all their hard work.

April 23 is Take a Chance Day. Sounds like a great opportunity to try submitting your writing to an agent or publisher, no?

From the porcupette’s corner…

It’s an editing bonanza up in here!

man passed out on bed surrounded by papers
Me, after a solid week of intensive editing.

This last little bit has seen yours truly in an intense flurry of editing, trading stories for an upcoming collection back and forth with the (extremely patient) author. Each story is getting the full polishing treatment. Every word scrutinized for pulling its weight, every line tested for clarity and power. I ask dumb questions and I prod and I wheedle and I blather on at length making suggestions about motivation and symbolism and purpose.

It’s a lot.

I’m always nervous when I start to work with authors this way—I never know if the writer and I will really mesh, whether he or she will get my thought processes and random comments and my odd sense of humour. But it’s gratifying to hear that, actually, your comments have pushed the author to see possibilities in the work that he or she might not have considered before. Who knew a desk job could provide such a rush?


Hope you enjoyed this latest peek behind the curtain at the Porcupine’s Quill. Watch this space in the weeks to come for great giveaways, guest posts and other content in celebration of Poetry Month!


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3 Responses to An Amateur Versifier Wields a Sharpie, and Other News for April at the Porcupine’s Quill

  1. Mark Frutkin says:

    I think you might be conked out on that bed, not from the editing, but from the Sharpie fumes! (Just kidding — you’re a marvelous, hard-working editor…)

  2. Pingback: The Porcupine’s Quill

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.