A HashtagPoetry# Sequence on YouTube

A hashtagpoetry# sequence in response to URSPRUNGSALPHABET (Alphabet of Origin) by Nora Gomringer assisted by online translation engines and Twitter searches. All the images were created using apps on an iPhone 5S to redact and paint over screen shots of the iOS Twitter app generated via Twitter searches using terms generated by online translations of lines from Nora’s poem or occasionally the original German. The sequence was created and posted on Instagram and Twitter over 26 days from 1-26 May 2016.

This is the original poem by Nora that inspired the work:



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. 

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:

View this post on Instagram

Creative Suite 0.0

A post shared by Clive Birnie (@clivebirnie) on