Drawing Inspiration from Newspapers, Poet Austin Kleon Creatively Recycles

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When he graduated from Miami University of Ohio, Austin Kleon, like many young writers, didn't know where to start his career. But instead of staring at a blank screen waiting for the Muse to deliver a Great American Novel, Kleon put his own pen and ink on other writers' words.

On his bus ride to and from his job at a campus library at UT-Austin, Kleon would take pages from The New York Times and black out lines in news stories with a permanent marker until only a few words remained. The words became poems. And this exercise, a way to break writer's block, he says, became a blog, a book and now a movement to create colorful new language from a printed page. Kleon was just taking literally what Walt Whitman once said: "The true poem is the daily newspaper."

At Friday night's "Fresh Ink" presentation at the Dallas Museum of Art, Kleon talked to an SRO crowd about his success with "found art" and how everyone can find inspiration in the mundane. Kleon's book, Newspaper Blackout, published in 2010 and now out in paperback, contains more than 100 of his "found" poems. His blog invites readers to submit their own blacked-out newspaper poetry and he says he's received them from all over the globe. He's also sold blackout poems as pieces of art. (See one of Kleon's works after the jump.)

Kleon had advice for other writers and artists trying to find an audience, and he said other good stuff at the DMA event: • "I started a blog not because I had something to say but to find something to say. Having a container can inspire you to fill it." • "Sit down every day and work at it bit by bit. I wrote a whole book on the bus to and from work." • The secret to success as an artist is "do good work and then put it where people can see it." • "Share your secrets. Artists are not magicians; there's no penalty for sharing." • "The more I stay away from the computer, the more ideas I get." • "Creativity is subtraction. It's the things we choose to leave out." • "The obituaries are the best part of the newspaper."

Hear the NPR Morning Edition piece that landed Kleon his book deal here.

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