Cento for black birds pushing against glass*

Cento is a piece of writing, esp. a poem, composed wholly of quotations from the works of other authors. It like a patchwork quilt, a fabricated whole from scraps from other places, people and times.

May ZINE spread

For me I also see Cento pieces like collage, disparate fragments of texts, images, quotes, colours brought together, moved around to create something totally new and unique which pulls meaning from the parts in construction but together go beyond their initial meanings and purposes.

Alchemy comes to mind as well as conjure. Magic.

Is this Mixmoir a Cento? No as I’m using my own text and anyone else’s that appear within it are credited. But I think there is an element of Centoism within the text as I pull from my body of work for the past 6 or 7 years to construct it. Also the different genres of writing and art that are going into the mix to create the whole is Centoist in practice, maybe.

This is an example of a Cento I created recently, which I think will be included in the Mixmoir, eventually.

Cento for black birds pushing against glass*

The first breath comes from early morning blossom.

Rain falls short. Look. The unbuckling sky. Rain.

There’s an old pain. The memory of water keeps

flowing heavy with blood. Bloodhounds catch the scent.

Black bodies packed into boats and the tide still rolling in.

A corpse dangling from the end of a rope. Justice they say.

And they cut off parts for souvenirs. Within these city walls

there is no room for self-love. Grin, keeping grinning at the camera.

My heart catches on fire as it could easily be my story. My body.

Along blood lines, pumped into the centre of the wound

it’s the body that remembers as tonight this river will receive

the crushed burden like black morels under foot.

Pull the earth on top of her, turn her black face away from the light.

I can not. But they’ve got the centuries’ old tradition to fall back on;

the rich white man and the black woman kept close

in the big house always ready to be split.

*Cento composed of lines from my past poems which were partly composed of lines taken from various other creatives. The title is from Lucille Clifton, and other lines are borrowed from James Allen, Kara Walker, Tafisha Edwards, Ocean Vuong, Billie Holiday, Martha Collins, and Toi Derricotte. There also a nod towards the film Monster’s Ball.

The Art of Slow Writing

Collaborative anti-racism broadsides collaborative project with Theresa Easton

I started my Patreon Page in April 2018 with the focus on Slow Writing.

I stated:

The Art of Slow Writing

“When our lives change, when the world changes, we must reinvent ourselves as writers.” – Louise DeSalvo.

Taking inspiration from Louise DeSalvo’s book, The Art of Slow Writing, I’m choosing to create fine writing; writing of quality and writing of worth. I believe in order for this to happen, I need to find my way back to slow writing.

Slow writing is a meditative practice, creating time and space for understanding my relationship to my writing, the writing process and working towards my best work.

I envisioned it as the space where I wrote the memoir ( memoir then, Mixmoir now).

I said through a facelift of my Patreon Page that:

I’ve been writing a creative non-fiction memoir which includes personal essays, poetry, quotes, paintings, photography etc and this continues as this piece of creation centres the black woman’s body with/in nature. What I envision now is this piece taking on a more critical and political perspective with climate / environmental justice taking up space as this is my reality, our reality, even if there are systems in place which would lead us to believe otherwise.

Using my art is my resistance, is my activism and I just see it as time to start owning it. Blatantly so.

All that I’ve been wanting to achieve and working towards has morphed into one – this idea of black / brown bodies with/in nature. This is my full-time obsession and I’ve been making big changes in my personal life to reflect and accommodate this. This includes Patreon.

It was within this space that I created the term Mixmoir to describe what I’m trying to create. There, here, everywhere.

When you take on a project, a writing project that is arduous and long and messy, there’s a tendency to get lost along the way. Get tangled up in the details, get into your own head and manipulate your own weaknesses and doubts to the point of stop writing and just spending your time and energy just wishing.

I’ve got to the point of feeling sick and tired about feeling/acting/behaving this way. This inactivity within a writing project I feel so deeply about. Which is so vital to my being.

So this is me attempting to change the story and get the damn book complete on my own terms by any means necessary by glueing my arse down to the seat and just writing.

Welcome to my practice.

The Long Journey To Claiming Books

I was brought up to treat books as sacred. They were a source of knowledge. You get your education and you’d have choices in life. You’d move on in the world. Have a better life than your parents before you.

Books were the gateway into this Paradise.

Each week, we would walk into town from our maisonette, along the busy dual carriageway. Once in town, we’d go to the market, to the one book stall and pick out a book. They were the tradition fairy tales with pictures and text.

If not them, then Enid Blyton books. For some reason, I felt the importance of books and the connection of them to my dad. He’d read us bedtime stories and I’d just love to be in his presence then. As he was softer and loving. Different from the angry man he was at all other times.

For some reason, who knows what goes through a child’s mind, I took to doodling in one of these fairy tale books. I want to say it was Snow White, but I could wrong.

A whole heap of scribbles and doodles took over the pages of this book. Why use the book when I had plenty of blank white paper? As I said who knows what goes through a child’s mind.

I just know that my father found the book and shouted at me with rage. And beat me. I’d done something wrong. I’d ruined the book. I’d ruined my chances of getting on in the world. I’d gone against the unwritten rule( or was a spoken one?) around how to respect books.

Older now, I hunt for books. I buy my own books. I read then. Some I don’t. Some I keep or give away. And some I purposefully, consciously make the decision to repurpose. Reclaim them.

I tear out pages and I cut these up. I smear paint on the pages left in the book. I stick images in them, tape, stickers. And yes I write in them. I write out my hopes and fears. My desires and dreams. My memories and traumas.

I think I was brought up right. To treat books as sacred. But it’s what you do with those books that count, I think. And a book has multiple uses/ purposes. I think. Multiple ways and means of instilling knowledge and opportunities and freedom.

It’s been a long journey for me to get to this point of choices. But I claim them all.

In Bed with Intuition

Nothing beats journaling in bed. Still half-asleep but fresh coffee bringing me around. And the day ahead. Expanding or constructing as I see fit.

I come to the page and allow my mood to guide me. What page to put pen to or image or colour.

It’s my intuition who leads the way, gently. Before my intuition was dead and gone. Repressed and forgotten. But slowly, through trust and patience my intuition is very much in the driving seat these days.

And I like it this way. She never sees me wrong but keeps me safe, creative and present.

Visual Journaling 24/05

::REST::

I just posted this over on my Patreon page for supporters, but I through it was relevant to post here. These are the revelations my visual journaling practice through up!

Visual Journal Spread – 22/05

Hey hey hey

How you doin’?

Me, I’ve been hitting on myself hard. Berating myself for spending last week in a stupor of low energy and slow pace productivity.

The practice of ::SLOW:: accompanied with the practice of ::CARE:: was not being practiced last week.

I could start shouting, ‘Shame on you, Sheree.’ But then I’d just be repeating the no compassion, no grace, no patience attitude and treatment towards self of last week.

Do you ever learn, Sheree?  Are you just circling the same old wounds and territory? Are you just right back in the same spot as before?

Nah man!

I’m not circling, I’m spiralling ( in a good way).

On this healing journey back to self, the pathway is a spiral. Yes there’s circling involved but with each new rotation I’m further up and further in, deeper into the exploration and becoming.

It’s like going up a mountain when you reach a vantage point. You get a better lay of the land as your vista opens up. You’ve got more data to play with moving forward/ upwards/ sideways/ and sometimes backwards. But you’re not in the same position as before because you have that experience, thoughts and feelings, events and reflections that have come to pass in the interim.

My takeaway therefore from last week is, ‘When you know you have a busy week ahead, Sheree darling, put in the diary rest and recovery for the week after that one.‘ Capeesh?!

If I schedule in the downtime, make a date with myself, then I won’t be riding my arse for not having enough energy to complete the things that might give me energy. 

Instead of guilt-tripping myself,
I’d be able to luxuriate in the feeling of knowing that’s all I’ve got to do in the time and space available is ::REST::

Cheerleading Myself

Visual Journal 22/05

Some days you come to the page and you just need a good talking to. A boost to the ego or little child within. Some days you’re holding out for a cheerleader.

I can be just that for myself in my visual journal. In that very moment of need and then later when circling back, rereading pages down the line, I get another boost as the sentiments call out to me again.

You’ve got this Sheree, I believe in you!

Circulating My Preoccupations

Visual Journal 21/05

I’ve mentioned before how I’ve been granted a scholarship to participate in Susannah Conway’s Journal Love Club for a whole year.

It’s a gift that just keeps on giving. I get a prompt everyday, a growing community on Mighty Networks, people sharing practice and a live zoom call once a month.

Usually, I start my day with my visual journal practice as above and then by the time I’ve done that the prompt from Journal Love Club has come through so I can continue and respond to that.

Journal Love Club Prompt 21/05

In the past, I’d be on my case for using so many different journals. I would also get confused by what went where and then lose stuff, not knowing where to find the gems. Now, I’m much more of a mind that if I’m showing up to the page, at all or once or twice or more, it’s all a win.

The common denominator between all these different journals is me. And this practice helps me along on this journey of getting back to me. The core me. The authentic me.

After today’s prompt which asked me to look over my recent journal entries to pull out themes; what’s been grabbing my attention, this entry came out:

Nothing is a surprise when I look back and see what issues and ideas keep circulating the journal pages.


Identity, fear, never being good enough.

But then I started to switch things up in response to this prompt.
I’ll never to good enough in a system which is stacked against me.
In a system wired for us to aim for perfection even when we know it doesn’t exist.
But more so, if it did exist it wouldn’t be available to me anyway.

So knowing this I surrender. I let go. Not give up, but surrender means not allowing time and energy to strive for this, to even fight it.
But to use this energy and channel it into the things that are important to me. Not even taking into account the system, the white gaze but making my audience that little Black girl inside and the one in my house now.

And maybe through this I can heal as well as be a better mother to myself and my daughter.

That feels good, that feels better.”

One Tired Goddess

Visual journal 16/05

This past week has been way too busy for my liking. But it was to my liking in a way as I found it stimulating and so much food for thought.

What I need now is rest though in order to process it all and at some point it did get to stimulation overload.

My creative pot over flows and I need to channel this into something. Something I produce in order to process this last week somehow. as well as how it sits with my overall practice and how I show up in the world.

Showing up at the page each day has helped; mining my thoughts and feeling and reactions onto these pages has been a support.

I just need some more space and rest now to integrate it all. Yes that’s what I’m seeking integration.

And again this is where my visual journal steps up/ in/ through me to support this journey of becoming.

A Hot (PINK) Mess

Visual journal 15/05

To you it might look a mess.

To you it might look like someone’s puked on the page.

To you it might feel out of whack.

To you it might make no sense.

To me it feels like progress.