The Method: How to Make a HashtagPoem#

I made the first app-poems and posted them to Instagram back in early 2014 during the final stages of making Cutting Up The Economist. These involved photographing elements of the contents pages of editions of The Economist and then editing and manipulating on a smartphone using a couple of different apps. This lead to an interest in exploring how I might create poems using only my iPhone. I started taking screen grabs from the Twitter app intrigued by the cut-up flow of information. That put me in mind of William Burroughs whereas Cutting Up The Economist has been all Tristan Tzara (“take a newspaper / take some scissors”). Also during a (as yet unpublished) third montage project that sat between Cutting Up The Economist and HastagPoetry# titled The Palimpsest Girl I started decorating the poems with coloured dots influenced by the work of Yayoi Kusama and carried this across into the smartphone exploration. The early results looked like this:

HashtagPoem#8

Method One was born. I made 11 poems like this in March-May 2015 and then stalled. The text editor element that provided the XXX’s was hard to manipulate on the small screen of my phone and they could take hours of back and forth to get right.

I came back to the project in October 2015. During a visit to Skye in the summer I have found some sets of coloured dot stickers in a post office. Influenced by Austin Kleon’s Blackout Poetry method (not for the first time I should add) and his advocacy of getting off-tech and going analogue I stacked up screen grabs from the Twitter app and printed them out on A6 photo-paper. Method Two was born:

1.Take a Twitter-app screen grab 2. Print it out on photo-paper 3. Redact with a black Sharpie 4. Decorate with coloured dot stickers 5. Photograph & post to Instagram:

HashtagPoem# 12

That worked through to HashtagPoem#38 and then I stalled again. The thought that I had intended at the beginning to explore the use of smart phone apps was nagging at me so I went back to the apps and tried a new approach. This time rather than hatching with the text editor I erased text using white paint function of the PhotoEditor app and then added paint dots of different size and colours by tapping my finger repeatedly on the screen. Method Three was thus established as a completely app based process:

1.Take a Twitter-app screen grab 2. Open it in PhotoEditor 3. Crop it. 4. Erase to leave the desired text 5. Decorate with coloured dots 6. Export it & post to Instagram. This GIF gives you a flavour of how it works:

HashtagPoem#88
HashtagPoem#88

This kicked off a creative run that remains ongoing. I like the aesthetic scope and variety it offers. The pieces that will feature in the installation at StAnza16 were all created this way but I will be using Method Two during the residency and encouraging festival goers to join me in creating new poems themselves. These will all be posted to the StAnzaPoetry Instagram during the festival.

I’ll arrive at the festival armed with my Creative Suite 0.0 which will include a bunch of A6 prints of random Twitter screen grabs (or maybe even screen grabs of the Twitter feeds of poets and other festival attendees – I am open to suggestions @clivebirnie on Twitter), plus a whole load of Sharpies and of course coloured stickers. It’ll look something like this:

Creative Suite 0.0

A post shared by Clive Birnie (@clivebirnie) on

Advertisements