Austin Kleon is quick to acknowledge that, far from inventing the poem-creating technique he uses in Newspaper Blackout —taking an indelible marker to the New York Times and blacking out text until new meaning emerges from the remaining words—he is cribbing a style of writing probably invented 250 years ago by the Englishman Caleb Whitefoord. Even so, Kleon, a young Austinite, embraces the form with an energy that serves him well in the challenge of mining the news for hidden bits of Zen lite that occasionally bump up against brilliance. Like this pithy take on the dynamics of a relationship: “I said / Honey / I need an orientation / Or a small map / Of what you really like.” Or this melancholy reflection: “On top of the wheat silos / We see the birds venture farther from their nests / Than we ever have.” The medium is challenging—Kleon works with a palette of words not of his choosing, which is like preparing a meal from random ingredients bought by a stranger. But aside from the occasional head-scratcher (“The ages of Trees / Authorized by rings”), Kleon manages to turn the paper of record into visually stark nuggets of poetry and wit. All the Muse That’s Fit to Print, you might say. Harper Perennial, $12.99
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