May 23, 2006
Poetry publisher Wave Books proffers an online system, Erasures, for creating subtractive poems. The project celebrates Wave’s recent publication of Mary Ruefle’s A Little White Shadow, which was composed in this manner. A page links to that book and illustrious predecessors produced by deletion: Jen Bervin’s Nets, produced by removing letters from Shakespeare’s sonnets; Ronald Johnson’s Radi os, based on the first four books of Paradise Lost, and Tom Phillips’s A Humument. My favorite digital tool for creating texts in this way, presented in performance at A Night at the Cybertexts at DAC 2001, is John Cayley’s Instrumental, which allows the user to multi-select runs of text and then delete everything except what is highlighted. It’s nice, of course, to also have a flexible Web system like this to allow people to share what they’ve shored against ruin.