I’ve started so I’ll finish

I love a fresh start, how about you? I love it so much that I have notebooks and rooms full of unfinished projects, and a head full of even more that I am definitely going to start, one of these days…

…which is why it’s a refreshing change to say I have finished something! I started this blackout poetry book back in 2012 perhaps? A lifetime ago. And last weekend I finished it. It’s not the most incredible thing in the world, but it’s mine, and I’m done. What project have you completed recently? How long did it take you?

In my imagined future I sit on a cushion rag-rug-covered in denim blues, looking at the neolithic horses I’ve sculpted out of papier mache and all those toilet roll innards. I’m relaxing after recording the seventh in my series of poetry review vlogs, and pondering the edits to my fourth collection of poems about geomancy, post-Apocalyptic shamanism and GPS. I’ve loved writing it, it’s been such a welcome break from the best-selling crime novels. On the wall behind me is a huge canvas covered with coral polyps fashioned from water-softened rail tickets I’ve collected over the past decade. My stop-motion filmpoem of hand-painted beetles has been selected for an international festival, and I pen a little celebratory sketch into one of the hand-made scrapbooks I fill each lunar month. Soon I will go out and contemplate the incredible living patterns I have painted on my garden wall in buttermilk and blended moss. Birds are bathing happily in the water feature I made from a reclaimed pedestal hand basin, encrusted with Gaudiesque mosaics. I think I may have lost a little weight…

Through a glass darkly – filmpoem week 1

Huge thanks to Alison Raybould, who provides us with the very first piece of video footage for this new collaborative project!

Take a look at what we’ve got so far:

You now have until 5pm this Friday 10th April to send us the next 20 second clip, responding to verse 2:

a face I know to be yours
but folded away, cupboarded
kept for best

Full info and instructions on how to submit your film snippet are here. Really looking forward to seeing what comes next in this visual daisy-chain!!


What to do with a blank page, and why?

Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or empty stage. – Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way

I’m currently a writer-in-residence at mima, Middlesbrough’s Institute of Modern Art. Well, so what? I hear you say. Congrats and custard to you, I bet you’re very happy with yourself. But, BUT, friends – there are no terms to this residency! I have to decide for myself what to do and when to do it by. This is quite different from when I was poet-in-residence at Hartlepool History Then And Now, gathering and re-telling WW1 maritime tales. This is a teensy bit terrifying. What on earth am I going to do?


Some background? Ok. Last year I was accepted on to the Writers Block North East novel-writing bootcamp, a year-long programme during which, if participants so choose, they may supplement their frantic novel-writing with a self-generated side hustle at mima. My side hustle is this –

I will use archive documents relating to artworks in the Middlesbrough collection as source material to inspire blackout, erasure and found poetry, plus a load of other digital and multimedia approaches like stop-motion films and collage.

If you follow my Insta, you’ll know that these are all things I do for fun. They’re not my ‘real’ writing. (Whatever that means, imposter-critic-head-voice) I mean, writing is writing and I’m a writer, right? (WHATEVER THAT MEANS, IMPOSTER-CRITIC-HEAD-VOICE!) So why do I do them in the first place? And why choose to do them more?

I do them
1. To keep myself creatively active through times of block and mental exhaustion
2. To retain playfulness as a creative principle
3. To get some wiggle-room into the idea of ‘writing’ by crossing disciplines and media
4. To activate my subconscious and surprise myself
5. To activate my subconscious and recognize patterns of thought, association, values

So, by making techniques the focus of this residency, I hope to
1. Make work on a broad and unexpected range of subjects
2. Make work whose forms and materials are influenced by both the source texts and the artworks to which they refer
3. Experiment with a really wide range of techniques, and fail as interestingly as possible
4. Learn to use new equipment and digital methods
5. Say hi to a new bunch of people via the mima Insta account

PoemsHelpDriverlessVehiclesBut YOU lovely lot are going to get more than just an Insta post. I’m going to take you with me while I work out what the heckitty-heck to do, and if you have had any similar experiences of setting up your own residency in any artform at all, you’d better believe I’d LOVE to hear about it. Have you blogged about it? Send me links! I’ll quote you! What’s your process, your practise, your advice?

Tune in next week-ish for some Gold/Yellow collage, a process video in which my belly features far too prominently, and me fangirling somewhat about Lubaina Himid. And follow @mimauseful on Insta, please and thank you.