Download HashtagPoetry# – the @StAnzaPoetry Edition (Free)

Download your FREE ebook or PDF: HashtagPoetry# – the StAnza Edition.

At the beginning of March 2016 I had the honour of being the Hashtag Poet in residence at the StAnza International Poetry Festival in St Andrews (Scotland).  The residency had three elements:

1. An installation / projection of a selection of the work I had produced over the previous year as I had developed my HashtagPoetry# project on Instagram and Twitter.

2.A DIY open workshop at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews encouraging festival attendees to make blackout / hashtag poems (see some of the results at the end of this post**).

3. Creating and posting (mostly) new work in response to the festival and its themes.

For the final element I lined up a series of pieces ready to post during my stay in Scotland and then added new work created over my three days at the festival. I will admit I did re-post a couple of older pieces just because circumstances reflected the content and they worked within the specific context of those moments but the majority of the work was created specifically for StAnza.

I have collected these 28 pieces in a FREE ebook & PDF, HashtagPoetry# – the StAnza Edition. You can sign up to download it here.

I continue to post new work as part of this ongoing project on Instagram and Twitter and am currently creating a new piece each day throughout April as part of NaPoWriMo.


** Here are a selection of blackout / Hashtag poems made by StAnza Festival attendees:



I call this Impossible-Polaroird-Wall-Poem#3 made with words collected at StAnza. Thanks to all present at the festival for a total mind feast and in particular to the following for their companionship, support, camaraderie, conversation and inspiration: Harry Man, Jo Bell, Tania Hershman, Kevin Reid, Justin Stephenson, Scott Tyrrell, Ryan Van Winkle, Nora Gomringer, Daniela Seel, Sophie Gainsley, Lyndsey FineranBen Gwalchmai, Jim Carruth, Brian Johnstone, Elizabeth Hare, Kirsten Luckins, Dave Coates, Jemima Foxtrot, Malika Booker, Katie Ailes, Kevin Mclean, Joey ConnollyBas Kwakman, and of course of course of course Annie and Eleanor for inviting me to StAnza. It was an honour. 

In defence of Instapoets: 10 of the Best

I have noticed a trend in recent months for articles that are negative about the advent of what has been termed the #Instapoet – that is someone who uses Instagram as vehicle for sharing poetry. I find this odd because being fan of both poetry and Instagram I see only good in the combination of the two and enjoy playing in the space myself. I find that most articles fail to acknowledge the extraordinary range of work being created and shared via Instagram or that it is frequently a place for  innovative work to be tested and community to be built. As I am about to embark on a 4 day residency as part of my own Instagram project at the StAnza Poetry Festival in Scotland as HashtagPoet# in residence I feel duty bound to put the other side of the argument:

Here are ten #Instapoets who I think showcase that the collision of poetry and the smartphone is nothing but a good thing :

<note: each name below is a link that will open the relevant Instagram page in a new browser tab.>


Austin Kleon is the most influential poet of the 21st Century. His Blackout Poetry project & book and his selfless drive to share his method and encourage others to share their work has lead to a small poetry revolution. Instagram is awash with poets using the Blackout method and sharing their work. I came across someone using Austin’s Blackout technique in poetry workshops here in the UK who had no idea where the wave that had handed them the concept had started.  Austin also kickstarted a renewed interest in the work of Tom Phillips and there is a whole sub-Phillips genre on Instagram as people share their own works in progress.


Alice Simone uses a fusion of the methods of Austin Kleon and Tom Phillips to create poems via the redaction of pages from Jane Austin novels. I have never been a fan of JA so Alice is onto a winner as far as I am concerned and the pages in question are much improved as a result of Alice’s intervention.


London montagist Matthew Kay’s Diagram Poems are a great example of a text-artist-poet using the visual medium of Instagram. Data charts meet Dada. Cut outs and cut ups and pie charts. A personal favourite.


I was introduced to Adrian’s work by this Sabotage Reviews review of his Instagram series selfieswiththemoon. Typewriter rendered micro poems, messed with, photographed and filtered and uploaded to Instagram. This is what the 21st Century was invented for.


A star of the Nuyorican Poets Café, this is New York Spoken Word, posted big, bold, out spoken and political. I particularly like the typography of pieces like this… and this… you get the point. Also check out this film on YouTube.


Inua needs no introduction to anyone reading this I am sure. This is a great example of an established artist experimenting with a new medium (a bit like David Hockney with his Polaroid camera in the 70s). Inua has been posting a series of micro poems titled #Daily Definition(s) / #Tiny Poems which all start “We are small worlds made cunningly of…”. They are so good my stomach muscles knot as I read them.


Kayleigh describes herself as a Blackout Poet. Collager. Photographer.  All good in my book. Another example of a writer / artist playing with the pictorial textual collide. I like Kayleigh best when she is stretching herself and her humour is black. Pieces like this montage with its nod to Matthew Kay and this one.


OK. Megan doesn’t actually post all that much poetry to Instagram. But she is a poet. She is on Instagram. She is on tour with Olivia Gatwood with their show SPEAK LIKE A GIRL. She is poetry’s Lena Dunham and America’s Megan Beech and she gets on this list just for: This. Poem. See what I mean. Yep.

OK. This one as well…


If Bukowski was Latino, here right now with an iPhone and an Instagram account he might just be called Ottis Blades. If the machismo bothers you – get past it and concentrate on the longer pieces. The kid can write. And what about THIS Mr-would-be-President-Trump? I think we know where Ottis thinks your should stick your damn wall.


But but but… I hear the poetry police splutter. All right Gabrielle is more #insta-curator than #insta-poet but this is my post so we play by my rules.  Of most interest to me in this context is the collection of found and stolen words she posts from time to time. I am unclear whether she adds some of the graffiti herself or not but as I have made a montage poem or two from words found at the side of the road myself, this resonates for me and so she gets place number ten.


HashtagPoetry# – The hidden poetry of Twitter, cut-up, painted and posted to Instagram will be published by Burning Eye Books in April 2016. 


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:


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:


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:

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Creative Suite 0.0

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