Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem-ink May 22, 2016

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 6:16 pm
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Two thousand years ago

ink was crafted from

gall nuts

and crystals

of gum arabic

ground to powder

stirred into water

with iron oxide powder.

Ink that bound words to paper

so they clung there for millennia,

tangled in the fibres,

still legible.

Today, I ground and stirred and bottled;

now I wonder,

do I have words worth preserving

for millennia?



Today I did a workshop with Ted Bishop at the Word on the Lake Writers’ Conference.  His book The Social Life of Ink was nominated for the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction.  It was very cool to make the ink, and especially to write with it.  I dipped the pen, wrote, and then watched as the pale brown words turned black as the ink oxidized.  So cool.  Here are Ted and I. He’s holding a fountain pen, of course. 🙂




17 Responses to “poem-ink”

  1. Melody J Haislip Says:

    Well, I Like what you did with your ink. Thought I’d tell you today, since I won’t be around millennia hence.

  2. This recipe will last for millennia, if nothing else does. 🙂

    • It was used to write the Dead Sea Scrolls and the first Koran apparently. It binds chemically with the paper/vellum/leather, Ted said, which is what makes it last so long.

  3. erbiage Says:

    Please don’t post any more pictures of yourself, you are far too beautiful for these mere mortal eyes to endure.

    Love the words, you sure do have words that ought to endure.

    A friend of mine made an ink from walnut husks. it’s amazing how these different inks handle. The same, but different. Like when a novice woodworker first turns away from pine, to riven oak or cherry…

  4. Can you believe that in this day and age people have the audacity to call my nuts gall!

  5. rivrvlogr Says:

    This is just too cool!

  6. […]   this was my inspiration for this […]

  7. cheryl622014 Says:

    …then you make the paper and the kids run round outside trying to find pigeon feathers to sharpen and do it just like Shakespeare did miss.. One gave up and shoved a biro refill down the shaft instead…the trend was apparently not good for H&S reasons…

    • Ha. Part of Ted’s book looks at the Biro. He had some adventures chasing down the story of its inventor. 🙂

      (We’d probably find it easier around here to find some Canada Goose feathers)

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