Guest Blog: Shelley Tracey


Since 2010, I have composed more than six hundred textpoems, and sent them out on my phone to an expanding audience.  Many of the recipients respond with their own poems, even though they may never have written poetry before.  My evolving experience of the textpoem form suggests that it lends itself to effective and intimate communication. I speculate that this is because it brings together the moment of insight captured  in ancient forms of brief poetry such as haiku, with the communicative possibilities of mobile phones.  This poem explores these possibilities:



Between abbreviations,

intuiting the unbloomed word.

The unsung notes are sliding, rising.

A consonant unothering.x


The theme of the poem is the intuitive understanding which texting can foster between texter and reader, drawing on their shared knowledge of textlanguage. The word “unothering” means a strong connection between two people. In my experience, the textpoem form lends itself to creative uses of language. There is a the popular notion that using mobile phones impacts negatively on the use of language in general, and on young people’s literacy skills in particular. However, recent literature on texting suggests that young people’s use of textisms can enhance their capacity to play with language.

When I began the process of composing textpoems, the only definition of the form available was: “Simply put: it is poetry that fits inside a text message: i.e. poetry that is less than 160 characters long”.

However, as my experience of textpoems has evolved, I have developed my own definition and criteria. A textpoem needs to use textlanguage as appropriate, to be sent out to at least one person, and to contain an observation about nature or a moment of insight. The themes of my poems encompass communication and connection; responding to loss and grief; experiencing nature; the transitions of the seasons and sunrise and sunset, and creativity itself.

The following three poems are presented as they appeared on the phone, and also in more traditional printed poetic form. The x at the end, common to textmessages, identifies them as textpoems.  Most of the poems are created without a title, which might be added when they are typed up. .

New morning rising fresh + cleansed from dawnmist, psteppign litely on2 velvet grass. She leaves her nitecloaks @ the foot of trees. Her dress arrayed wth crocusbeads, purple, lilac, gold +white. x



New morning rising fresh and cleansed from dawnmist,

stepping lightly onto velvet grass.

She leaves her nightcloaks at the foot of trees.

Her dress arrayed with crocusbeads,

purple, lilac, gold, and white.


This poem emerged from direct observation on an early morning walk in a local park. The contemplative state induced by walking and the evocative light prompted the sense of wonder and the images.

The next poem is about the multiple perspectives which close observation offers:

Uncertainty bout the moon: skysmoke blown aX its face, nitebreath from its open mouth, incense pool of liquid ice, ashes of the sinking day, portal opening in2 nite.x



Uncertainty about the moon:

skysmoke blown across its face,

nightbreath from its open mouth,

Incense pool of liquid ice,

ashes of the sinking day,

portal opening into night.


The reference in the following poem to a candle is typical of many of my textpoems. Some of my poems emerge from my daily meditation practice, which begins with lighting a candle and sitting in silence.

Rhythm. Candle on a wite table in a dark rm, crescent moonflame ebbing + expanding its own shado. 2day the *s r pulsing perfect silver beats. 3 narcissi in a ro, arpeggio in autumn song.x



Candle on a white table in a dark room,

crescent moonflame ebbing and expanding its own shadow.

2day the stars are pulsing perfect silver beats.

3 narcissi in a row, arpeggio in autumn song.x


My website offer opportunities for you to develop and share your own textpoems. You can also see examples of sets of poems which I have printed on the website.

Dear reader,

I look 4ward 2 ur response x


Shelley Tracey is a poet, educator and creativity consultant with extensive experience in adult literacy, teacher education and the facilitation of creative writing and creativity workshops. She is currently training as a poetry therapist. Some of her textpoems were included in her doctoral dissertation, which explored the creation of spaces for teachers to develop their understanding of creativity. Other textpoems have been published in articles about this new form, as well as on her website, Shelley has printed two themed sets of 30 poems each , “Journeycards” and “Spaces Inbetween”, and has published a book of textpoems and German translations with the paintings of Ingrid Frank, a German artist: Reflections: Poetry and Paintings (2013).



Guest Blog: Jason O’Rourke

Slave to the Rhythm?


I am driving through the slanting Belfast rain with my seven-year old daughter. The windscreen wipers scrape and clack out a pattern. I suggest to her that they are saying ‘Taka-bu-ti, Taka-bu-ti,’ the name of the Egyptian mummy in the Ulster Museum. The combination of rhythm and word inspires us to compose a verse together, a sort of rap. It’s a natural progression: rhythm, word, song.

This illustrates a basic fact of life: rhythm is inescapable; it surrounds us. Our bodies pulse with it, day follows night, seasons turn, and tides rise and fall. Rhythm is fundamentally linked to human creativity and expression. This is true of visual art (e.g. Matisse’s Dance), and architecture (e.g. Zaha Hadid’s Stone Towers), as well as music, dance, and the written or verbal word.

Although rhythm has been a vital element in the composition of both music and literature, there are differences between the two concerning its deployment. In the case of musical composition, unless you are familiar with the work of modern experimental composers, such as Stockhausen, you might find it difficult to imagine music without it. And while there have been experimental compositions which have tried to liberate music from the constraints of rhythm by doing away with bar lines and time signatures, it could be argued that they are still defined by its absence, and thus continue to be wedded to it. I think it’s fair to say that the creation and reception of music without rhythm is not widely practised in comparison to music that has it.

This is not an issue for writers. The constraints of formal metre have been experimented with, and rejected by, poets since the 19th Century. Formality of rhythm is no longer the norm that it was in the past. If you wanted to read a modern poem in Shakespeare’s beloved iambic pentameter, you might have to trawl through quite a few poetry collections before you found one. But this doesn’t mean that rhythm in poetry is dead: far from it. Opening my three most-recently acquired books of poetry I very quickly found examples of its use:


“The sea and Southern bread, and sweets we couldn’t get”

(Paula Cunningham, ‘Geography and Sweetshops,’ in Heimlich’s Manoeuvre);


“This night is half moon night, half liquid every roof

This night a half out snail half feels the moonbraile”

(Alice Oswald, ‘A Sleepwalk on the Severn’);


“‘Too much butter will har’n your arteries.’”

(Maria McManus, ‘Rose “Cissy” Hegarty’s Kitchen,’ in We are Bone).


This last line fits perfectly to the beat of the traditional Breton Dañs Plinn, which was performed to stamp down new earth floors – a good way to work off that excess butter. For me, the use of a particular metre in this modern poem evokes an image of traditional customs and music. This tension between ancient and modern is a symptom of the times we live in, and it’s often reflected in the art we produce.

Living without rhythm is impossible. Creating art without it isn’t – but how desirable is its absence in your life?


Jason O’Rourke is a writer and musician based in Belfast, Ireland. His short stories and poetry have been published online and in print, as well as on his blog, ‘Vernacularisms.’ He is currently guest blogger for the ‘Ideas Workshop.’ In 2013 Jason was nominated for a ‘Best of the Net’ award and won the Fiddler’s Elbow (Rome) short story competition.

As well as his creative writing, Jason has published a number of essays and articles about the history of the medieval book, and has made several recordings of Traditional Irish Music.

Jason’s Belfast Notes can be found on his blog at 

Music is available online at the usual channels or at his MySpace page. You can reach Jason on Twitter, and on Facebook.