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 Also during a (as yet unpublished) third montage project that sat between Cutting Up The Economist and HastagPoetry# titled The Palimpsest Girl I started decorating the poems with coloured dots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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Time Travel Hotel… 1star or 5star?

9781909136526After publishing Time Travel Hotel last year I punted a few copies our into the world to see if it would garner some GoodReads reviews and maybe a few readers off the back of that. Here are a selection of comments from the results:

“Packed full of crazy characters and events, with a twisting storyline and atmosphere that reminded me of Catch-22 (as referred to in the influences) with a little sprinkling of Kafka and Beckett.”

“I enjoyed this book. It’s a bizarre and quirky time travel/looping book with some raunchy but very quick sex scenes. I enjoyed the author’s style and humor. Definitely not a sci-fi that will please everyone, but I thought it was fun.”

“This was one of the strangest books I have ever read”

“totally manic, somewhat confusing and often pretty revolting”

“follows a man who is hired to track down a man by the name of Eugenides. He arrives at the hotel, the time travel hotel (republic), and the book follows his search for the man gone astray, meeting various characters along the way. And I do mean characters. A girl with 9 lives, and a penchant for jumping off high balconies; a man who falls through floors, willingly or not; an alien from mars, terribly dissatisfied with the less than packing members of male earthlings. The entire thing was a bit odd, and I loved it for that reason.”

“if one is easily offended, one should not attempt reading this book.”

FB Ad1 18Mar15“I didn’t want to put the story down. It is very creative, to say the least, and extremely odd. Maybe a little too odd at times”

Time Travel Hotel was the wildest leisurely stroll I’ve ever been on. With a small cast of eccentric characters and a complex yet uncomplicated plot, it was a very easy read, despite being entirely bizarre and occasionally disturbing.”

“there is so much nonsense within this short novel (as I typed that, I started thinking about the absurdity of this book and accidentally typed ‘snort shovel’) that the reader isn’t really left with anything more than what he chooses to assume. ”

Yep. No complaints. I deliberately wrote an absurd time travel detective sex comedy that ran at 100 miles an hour but tipped its hat firmly in the direction of Waiting for Godot or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (I LOVE R&G are dead!). Throw in my love of Catch 22 and Sombrero Fallout and this is what you get. Also I had this image in my head of Hugo Ball or another Dada mayhem maker blowing a horn loudly while Tristan Tzara was reading a poem so that part of the narrative is obscured and therefore deliberately dropped the “plot” and reader down a mine shaft in the dark as often as possible whilst keeping the whole damn thing rocket speed readable. So no surprise that those who get it, love it and those who don’t REALLY hate it. Happy with it all. No one seems to have been bored!

One author poet I have published at Burning Eye emailed to say this:

“I meant to say I finally got round to reading Time Travel Hotel the other week, and thoroughly enjoyed it – old school Adams-ian sex comedy sci-fi Ken Campbell-ish trip, man.

Thanks for writing it.”

Time Travel Hotel is available in paperback and all manner of ebook versions. If you buy the paperback from Burning Eye and put the promo code DADA in the relevant box you will get it half price.

Paperback from Burning Eye>>>Paperback from Burning Eye>>>

Ebook from Amazon

Ebook from Kobo

Ebook for iBooks

Also available from Waterstones Foyles Blackwells Wordery Books etc

Here’s a sample…