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The Gallery: Erin Dorney Story by Leticia Gonzales

Art by omission Erasure poet Erin Dorney says the unusual form helps her discover ideas


hether it’s from a celebrity i n t e r v i ew, a s t a t e p a rk brochure, television screenplay or even a textbook, Erin Dorney, a writer and marketing consultant from Mankato has been extracting poetry from existing texts for the past three years. Erasure, as the genre is called, is “a form of found poetry where words are taken away from an existing text.” “This is my current and preferred medium, one that allows me to explore and repurpose language to create new meaning,” said Dorney, who starts the writing process by removing words from the text she selects, which leaves the remaining words she uses to create a poem. “I discover ideas I never would have thought to look for,” expressed Dorney. “These narrative strings are often emotional, and reveal poetry in texts that aren’t inherently poetic. This process of discovery — working within the rigid boundaries of only a certain suite of available words — has pushed my craft forward and inspired me to experiment in my work.” “I think one trend that goes through a lot of my work is the natural world,” shared Dorney. The majority of her poems are sourced from ornithology textbooks, small game hunting manuals, rock and mineral books, as well as flower and seashell guides. “I like to use scientific texts and play on the combination of poetry and science, since many people view those are on opposite ends of the spectrum,” she added. “When you can make poetry from a booklet of high school science experiments, I think that reveals something important about the nature of words.” The end results often resemble traditional poems, but Dorney said she has recently been including some

Erin Dorney’s latest book is called “I Am Not Famous Anymore,” and features poems inspired by Shia LaBeouf. Her unique genre of poetry is called “erasure,” and consists of eliminating words in existing texts to form thoughtful verse. (The photo of Dorney above was taken by Michelle Johnsen.)

visuals as a side piece to her erasures. With the help of a grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council (PLRAC), Dorney spent a week in Minneapolis to complete a self-directed writing residency, where she wrote about the exhibits at the Walker Art Center. D o r n e y, wh o l e a d s m o n t h l y ekphrastic writing workshops at the Arts Center of St. Peter, created a zine or how-to-guide on the writing process for others who are interested in trying ekphrastic writing. The zine can be downloaded for free on her website at Her first book, “I am Not Famous Anymore,” will also debut this spring, featuring a collection of erasure poetry that she sourced from various media interviews with Shia LaBeouf. From an installation in the Mankato Masonic Temple elevator that included more than 300 blackout poems, to decorating an empty storefront window in West Downtown Minneapolis with four large-scale erasure poems, Dorney is constantly looking for creative avenues to showcase her work. This past fall she entered her first juried show at the PLRAC Annual Juried Exhibition, where she received a certificate of merit for one of her shadow box erasure poems. This year Dorney would like to focus on bringing her poetry to a wider audience. “People who would never pick up a book of poems might stop to linger if they saw a giant poem on the side of a building, for example,” she said. “I want to explore that sort of thing—taking poetry off of the page and exposing it to people who think they don’t “get” poetry. They can totally get it. I think they just haven’t come across the right poem yet.”


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