Teeny Tiny Writing

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that one collaged found poem does not a writing residency make.

(To catch a hold of what I’m blethering on about, read how I am inventing my own residency, and have a neb at my first piece of work.)

Next steps, therefore, must be to produce more, more, more, MORE work. Dutifully, I turned my attention to the ‘treatment proposal’ document pertaining to Toussaint L’Ouverture by Lubaina Himid. I took that report, and I cut it into strips, and I shuffled it around, and I thought about how we should treat each other with the kind of loving attention that a conservator lavishes on an Old Master, and – well. Turns out either the language of art conservation is truly lacking in poetry, or I am much worse at this than I thought. Darnit.

I managed to glean two micro-poems, two tiny little ‘treatment proposals’. The first is a kind of instruction about treating your own self with patience.

Surface, glazed – a decision made

The second is more about treating others with compassion.

Whilst inherently unstable,
small tears can be repaired by

Then, because they were so teeny-tiny, I spent some time bigging them up via the application of Some Slightly Flashier Techniques, making one into a stop-motion film,

and the other into both a stop-motion and a collage.

Treatment Proposal 1 collage after Himid
The upshot is that I quite like the end products! The collage is on cardboard, something I’ve been meaning to try for ages, and which I felt duty-bound to do now because Himid’s work is on cardboard. It’s a fantastically accessible material, which I’m sure is a political statement on her part, and of course it’s a better environmental choice than buying art paper especially. I think I’ll keep on using cardboard in future projects.

The stop-motions are fairly crude, but I do love the process. I played around with filters for the first time, and liked the way a black-and-white resulted in great gashes of light appearing in the animation. It’s good to know that even if my lighting conditions at home are desperately amateur, I might still be able to salvage or even improve footage by using the right built-in cheats.

Next time, I combine erasure poetry with stop-motion, and try to pay homage to Himid’s politics. While I’m gone, here’s an automatic haiku generator for you to play with.

Another handful of small stones

I’ve been saving them up so I can fling them at your bedroom window like gravel from the hands of a lovesick fool…


Clear veins have crept through the gutters,

Hard frost has scrubbed at the brickwork,

At last we wake up to the gift of edges.


Rapidly snapping their wingtips back into place over their rumps

Like concert pianists flipping their tailcoats over the stool.

Herring gulls. Deadpan.


On the floor of the Battery museum –

A quiet cluster of spent shells,

Dinted and corroded, crude as coilpots.

And one white feather.


On the train I am persuaded to put down my pen

By the clouds, those tatters of pale, blinding radiance.


The galvanised watering can has rolled against the back fence, skittled by the night-long wind, but resting now. In the 7am gloom, it is the only gleam. A shoulder of silver light, pale and passive as a quarter moon.

A handful of small stones

Sorry, I haven’t been posting a stone daily, though I’ve been thinking about them, I promise! What do you mean, you hadn’t noticed? Oh no, don’t make me question who I think I’m writing for, not again!


these fretful days, blunted contrasts

seaglass the only glowstones, trailing the tidal hem

liquid fractures, tiny skyfalls

fractionally panting in the shifting cloudlight

captured and carried, knocking

pocketful of droplets


darkness and our collected breaths press

the single, inadequate panes between them

until the glass is silvered

by the single streetlight beyond

the etiolated plant on the windowsill

inexpertly pruned by day

delicate Japanese silhouette by night


today all things speak to me of their opposites

this soft, open cast smudge on the stained white skyline

thumbed charcoal among the pony-scrubby grass

only whispers how it used to be for men and boys,

the underground faces, the pitshaft to the bowels

the fear between the molars, pressed

tight and hidden as anthracite


diddy little didcot punched from my ticket

travels with me, a black dot resting

on my black skirt


The end of my habitual trudge is the dead pipe

of the magnesium works, where it walks into the sea

on its massive H-and-A frame legs, quercus brittanicus,

barnacles, rust. The terminus is stoppered

by the old seawater silo, the landward point falters, and hangs

over compacted rubble. On a cross-beam

someone has knotted and slung blue nylon rope,

scavenged and tied a driftwood swing.

Now these forsaken things let me lift my feet

out of the sinking sand.


On the way back from the buried staithes there is a place where the banks have been reinforced with bulwarks of housebricks caged in iron mesh. The makeshift buttresses failed years ago, succumbing to rust and unleashing a brickslide that partially covers the long, larva-like scab of cooled slag from the old works. In amongst the solidified bubble-holes and chattered red bricks, Hannah found one that was blue. Just one. Squatter, deeper and heavier than any other, its blue glaze had been cracked and bleached by the sea, its corners rounded. We took turns carrying it home like a baby against one hip-crook and then the other.


Later, I looked up from my magazine at her working, and thought of blue bricks, touchstones, and how things begin.



Small stones and marathons

This pleasing oval is pure black, but flimsy.

This one has weight, but is dull.

A vein of quartz encircles this one like a fallen halo

Slipped over its shoulders.

No small stone is perfect.

No small stone from me yesterday, though I did spend four hours in a writing marathon, where the only sounds were prompts being read, work being shared and crisps being munched. One of the prompts was “at night I listen to the crickets naming their griefs, and let an ancient peace enter me” – this is my response:

After grief, peace.

After peace, grief.

The needle flicking across the dial.

Within grief, peace,

Rising from the skin like smoke from the crematorium chimney.

Within peace, grief,

Glancing up at photos of what has been and remains to be lost.

For no reason, she may look up from her phone to find the train

Is passing the chemical works at night.

Fairy lights strung on the flare stacks.

It looks like the future.

It smells like cancer.

Small stone – 7 January

Mindfulness has been hard to manage today, despite applying all the usual tools – morning pages, meditation, tai chi by the riverbank. Nevertheless, here’s an offering:

When I press palms together and let them rise / I am threading fire through the eye of the sky / In this way I am a needle / And the world is silk

Other people to check out for more mindfulness are

Kindness Blog

Leaf And Twig

Adrift In The Wilderness

Small stones – so far

I said I was disenchanted with blogging, but ever capricious, I am at it again. Stones, small stones, small moments from the day – today it is a scene from the window of the train, my Hartlepool-to-Stockton commute…

6th Jan    on the flooded five-a-side pitch at Billingham / a shopping trolley, wet to the fetlocks / is a zebra at the watering hole

And for those of you who missed the ones I’ve been posting on Facebook, we’ve had:

5th Jan     blinded by frost / cars turn their sleepy windscreens to the sunrise

4th Jan     that fat grey sky just squats there in a mard / but the pink cyclamen ignores it until it goes away

3rd Jan    Daybreak, and the starlings cry like the wind whetting grass blades. Dusk, and the wind moans like a child playing at ghosts.

2nd Jan

off the lacquered sand
drifts of birds
lift away from their shadows
light as ashflakes
blacken and vanish
into the sun

1st Jan    Give over, I’m not writing poetry today!