Erasures / Jenni B. Baker
:: You–Boy ::
:: Kind ::
:: Tiny Town ::
From the writer
:: Account ::
As an erasurist, I feel I need to account more for my sources than I do for my poems.
First, I spend an obscene amount of time inputting odd combinations of search terms in sites like HathiTrust and archive.org: “temporary wharf lodging,” “fallout shelters,” “butchering,” “mimes.” I’ll spend hours hunting down just the right source texts, ones with unique vocabulary and interesting syntax. Lately, I’ve also been seeking out sources where illustrations accompany the text, adding another layer of context and interpretation.
“You—Boy” and “Kind” are part of a larger series of pieces sourced from the 1965 Boy Scouts of America Handbook. As soon as I unearthed this text during my search, it was impossible to ignore. In addition to invoking a sense of American nostalgia, the handbook is beautiful and filled with colorful, retro graphics. The graphics, like the messages in the text, are a weird sort of earnest, cheerfully unaware of their ability to brainwash unassuming boys into a singular vision of what it means to be a man. My pieces manipulate these outlooks into alternate depictions of what it’s really like to be an adult.
“Tiny Town” comes from a 1951 book, The Boy’s Handbook of Play Ideas and Things-to-Do by Caroline Horowitz. Each page contains an activity idea accompanied by an illustration, a list of required materials, and a set of directions. Similar to the Boy Scout pieces, this piece takes a text originally meant for children and turns it into something much more adult. Instead of a tiny town, the child crafts a burial box. What elements from our childhood do we bury as adults?
Jenni B. Baker is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Found Poetry Review. Her poetry—mostly found, some not—has been published in more than three dozen journals and publications. Her Oulipo-generated chapbook, Comings/Goings, was released by Dancing Girl Press in March 2015. Always a fan of a good project, she is currently creating erasure poetry from David Foster Wallace’s 1079-page novel Infinite Jest, one page at a time, at http://www.erasinginfinite.com.