Poet and essayist Isobel O’Hare has come up with an artistic way of dealing with all the sexual misconduct apology statements flooding the news.
O’Hare uses a technique called erasure poetry, in which words are redacted from a passage to give it a new meaning.
The problem with all these apologies is that they often come off as insincere or phony. Worst of all was Kevin Spacey’s, as some said it not only managed to deflect the issue but also conflated homosexuality with paedophilia.
Harvey Weinstein blamed it all on the 1960s and Louis C.K seems to have left out the word “sorry”.
You get the idea.
Of course, no apology will ever be perfect, but we’ve yet to really see one that has satisfied the public. It’s likely this isn’t even possible.
O’Hare is using erasure to “fix” the statements into something more open, honest and powerful, posting the results to her Instagram:
“ignoring the truth” – I blacked out Jesse Lacey’s statement. This one was difficult for me because the context of his abuse is close to home (he targeted underage girls, but makes no mention of that in his statement, instead framing this as an issue of marital infidelity and sex addiction). I did three iterations of this before settling on this one, and the first one has droplets of my own blood on it because I was biting my thumb so hard while blacking it out). #erasure #erasurepoetry #blackout #jesselacey #brandnew #metoo
As noted by The New Republic, the Age of Trump has sparked a renewed interest in erasure poetry.
Two days after U.S President Donald Trump was inaugurated, writer Jay Dodd created this erasure poem out of Trump’s speech:
— 👾 j a y y ™👾 (@deyblxk) January 17, 2017
Other writers have followed suit, using Trump’s speech transcripts to create anti-Trump poems. My personal favourite is from poet Ariel Yelen who came up with this beauty on Trump’s response to the Orlando shooting.
Now O’Hare has taken the idea and applied it to the sexual misconduct apologies.
“The idea came from this feeling I’ve been sitting with (that a lot of us have been sitting with) of being triggered and overwhelmed by the constant barrage of new reports of abuse, which are heart-wrenching, followed by hollow PR statements from the accused that seem more self-pitying and deflective than remorseful,” O’Hare told Refinery 29.
O’Hare added that she sees poems as “spells” and that she hopes the erasure will “lift the veil” on the PR speak that fills these statements.