July Stones

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

video link

This morning I welcome Fiona Robyn to Via Negativa — that’s her voice in the video. Fiona’s on a blog tour to promote her book small stones: a year of moments. I’m a long-time reader of the blog from which the selections were drawn — in fact, a small stone was a major inspiration for my own daily microblogging experiment, The Morning Porch.

Fiona’s “stones” aren’t poems, exactly — some are, but others clearly are not. Each one represents a moment of quiet, focused attention, part of a daily practice which Fiona began three years ago to try and revitalize her own interest in writing. Blogging was integral to the project, it seems: from the beginning she wanted a space where she could collect and share the literary equivalent of small stones picked up on a walk and carried home in a pocket. “They might be a snatch of overheard conversation, the sun moving behind the cloud, or a cat jumping on the lawn,” Fiona writes in the introduction.

They set off a quiet ‘ah!’ inside me, like a toddler saying ‘look!’ They are nothing special and something special all at once. As time went on, I got better at remembering to notice the world around me. Not just to notice it but to scrutinize it, engage with it, love it.

When Fiona said she was publishing a book of selections from the first three years of the blog, I had my doubts about how well it work. But in fact they make a surprisingly satisfying collection. Like insects trapped in amber, the very delicacy and ephemerality of Fiona’s “stones” invite closer examination. As fragments of concentrated attention, many of them engage the reader in an active search for additional images and ramifications, in the same way that a modern translation of Sappho challenges one to fill in the lacunae.

Accordingly, in the video, I tried to leave as many lacunae as possible and let the words create the pictures. I hope it manages to excite some interest in the project (I uploaded it to YouTube, as well, for maximum exposure). Be sure to follow the links on the blog tour page for many more interviews, reviews, and conversations with the author. Consider writing your own “stones” for submission to a new, communal blog that Fiona is launching called a handful of stones. And of course check out the book.


Five minutes before midnight, a gnat attracted to the reflected light of my computer monitor dives into my eye.