Sunday Rumpus Poetry: Six Erasure Poems by Alison Thumel


Author’s note:

In the months following the election and inauguration, I—and many other artists and writers—feared for the future and began to resist in the only way we knew how: by creating. And yet as a writer, I found myself wordless—spinning aimlessly, backing myself into corners. As I was inundated with information in the news and on social media, I turned to found language.

These poems are erasures of Breitbart articles by Julia Hahn. In seeking to subvert, rebut, and reverse the language of the alt-right, I was drawn to Hahn. She and I attended the University of Chicago simultaneously. Although we never met, I was disturbed that the same institution that had influenced much of my writing practice had shaped Hahn into a writer for Breitbart and later, a special assistant to the president.

Hahn’s articles practice their own form of erasure. Much of what she writes is especially focused on immigration, and she brings to the surface the alt-right’s anti-immigration rhetoric, while silencing the voices of those directly impacted by anti-immigration policies such as the travel restrictions put in place shortly after the inauguration.

In erasing Hahn, I’m placing myself in conversation with her. I’m bringing her words—and the words of those she quotes—into my own mouth. By creating gaps and silences in Hahn’s words, I’m finding a different voice and a different perspective that resists Hahn’s.

I erased several of Hahn’s articles individually, from beginning to end. These poems are what remained.


On laws passed

The morning should
rewrite the law.

There’s a spot
in our broken manner.

Tell me:
are we more illegal

in favor of desire?
Consider the dream.

Give amnesty.
Which birthright

is perpetual
and whose is made?

One sentence
should be kept:

I had a body
to believe.


Source Text: Hahn, Julia. (2017, January 10) “Jeff Sessions on Immigration Law: ‘I’m Going to Follow the Laws Passed by Congress,” Breitbart. Retrieved from


To Labor

Name him. He who believes
labor is reluctant—simply
the good option to get born.

Labor has born people
with real feeling—
gross and free.

Solutions should be built.
Children to take home.
Criminals of American life.

The only world a wall
running against the places
you think can be open.


Source Text: Hahn, Julia. (2016, December 8) “Trump Expected to Tap Labor Secretary Who Prefers Foreign Labor to American Workers,” Breitbart. Retrieved from



The horse killed us.
Wake up.

what happens

when the careless
let us in?

We know
the dangers of it:

still, unlimited.
An unlimited strength.

The toothless
history declaring

we shouldn’t.
We’re important.

We want to run.
We have been quiet.

We’re left
in isolation.

It’s incredible
how we can be

the champion
and the attack.


Source Text: Hahn, Julia. (2016, December 1) “GOP Rep Calls for Total Pause of ‘Trojan Horse’ Refugee Program: Americans ‘Getting Killed’ for Political Correctness,” Breitbart. Retrieved from


Smear Session

His well-known record.
Your involvement.
The striking reveal.

I have not peddled
false allegations.

The parrot intended
to undermine you
for years, an irony
you would recant.

You explained
tiger, cutthroat.

Your attorney testified:
power, need, electric.

When were you given

a verdict?
The facts?
The counter-facts?


Source Text: Hahn, Julia. (2017, January 10) “Lion Ted: Cruz Challenges Media, Champions Truth Through Far-Left’s Smear of Jeff Sessions,” Breitbart. Retrieved from



The founding was mostly shock.
Stunned and opened up.

So many eyes. The curtain.
The hours just a line.

The founding felt controversial.
The consequences, too.

The citizens left behind their manners.
Felt the national mass divide.

The citizens echoed the founder.
At the beginning and 100 years after.


Source Text: Hahn, Julia. (2017, January 5) “Young Conservatives Educate ‘Hamilton’ Attendees on Founding Father’s True Views on Immigration,” Breitbart. Retrieved from


Speaker [silent]

[Speaker muted] Speaker: Just…

Speaker: …attack.

[Speaker praising] [Speaker quiet] [Speaker mention]: Tragedy, condolences, victims.

[Speaker heard]: Threat!

Speaker did not respond.


Source Text: Hahn, Julia. (2016, December 1) “Speaker Paul Ryan goes Silent as Refugee Program Claims Victims at Ohio State University,” Breitbart. Retrieved from

Alison Thumel is a Chicago-based writer. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago where she was awarded the Elsie F. Filippi Memorial Prize in Poetry. Her work has recently appeared in or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Banshee, Hobart, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. Her first chapbook won Salt Hill's Dead Lake Chapbook Contest and will be published in 2017. More from this author →