In the wake of recent sexual assault and harassment allegations following Harvey Weinstein’s widespread scandal, numerous male public figures, from Kevin Spacey to George Takei, have also been accused of inappropriate actions towards both men and women.
As happens when celebrities are publicly accused, they then release statements that fall anywhere from forceful self-deprecation to mild apologies to outright denial. Often, these statements ring hollow and insufficient. Now, New Mexico-based writer Isobel O’Hare is turning them into blackout poetry.
This genre of work, also known as erasure poetry, involves looking at a passage or article and scribbling out words until a sparse poem remains. O’Hare, who has practiced this kind of poetry for a few years, has posted several “edited” statements on Facebook, including ones from Spacey, Takei, and Richard Dreyfuss. The poems can be “a revelation of hidden intent in a text I find questionable,” O’Hare says.
For example, one poem–from Spacey’s controversial statement where he used it as an opportunity to come out as gay–reads simply as, “there are stories out there about me /that have been fueled by/my own behavior.”
Another, from Jeremy Piven, reads, “these women/destroy careers/and need to be addressed.”
For O’Hare, these poems are a chance to look more closely into the language the accused use to talk about their accusers and the acts of sexual harassment themselves.
“I started noticing, while reading these statements, that many of them used similar language,” O’Hare says. “There was a theme of ‘that was the culture then’ and sexist language like ‘these women’ kept appearing. I wanted to draw attention to that and to show what the men writing these statements didn’t realize they were revealing about themselves.”
In Louis C.K.’s statement, he talks about how he didn’t realize the power dynamics in play when he masturbated in front of women who looked up to him, and were often early on in their comedy careers.
O’Hare’s poetic distillation? “My dick/is a question/I run from.”