Poetweet: a new art form?

Article published on Oct. 19, 2012
Article published on Oct. 19, 2012
Poetry has ever come in a multiplicity of forms. We have the sonnet, structuring our words of love, the limerick for comic crudity, the haiku for capturing the essence of one perfect moment. And now? Now we have the tweet. A new medium for a new technology. Can it ever compare to our established forms? Or is it just a blip? I was sceptical.

I’m some­what new to the world of twit­ter and one of the things I find most dif­fi­cult to deal with is the hor­ri­ble gram­mar and ‘txt spk wrds’. I like vow­els and their ab­sence of­fends me. My ex­pe­ri­ence in the twit­ter­sphere had pre­pared me for the mas­sacre of the Eng­lish lan­guage in any at­tempt to squeeze po­etry into tweets.

A de­moc­ra­ti­sa­tion of po­etry

How­ever, po­et­weets are a dif­fer­ent form with a dif­fer­ent lan­guage. Just as telegrams STOP and Shake­spearean son­nets de­mand iambic pen­tame­ter, twit­ter poems must fit a cer­tain set of rules. While haiku are lim­ited by their num­ber of syl­la­bles, tweets are cur­tailed by a strict char­ac­ter limit – ex­actly 140, in­clud­ing spaces and punc­tu­a­tion. Per­haps in haiku we find the po­et­weet’s clos­est cousin. In­deed, many tweet­ers do use the haiku, or the struc­turally sim­i­lar sen­ryu:

‏...​the dark­ness enters...​razing light, cast­ing shadows...​vanquish­ing the day...#haiku #haikuchal­lenge (@Lazy­Book­worm)

the tears / she never shed / mid­night rain #sen­ryu #po­etry (@ex­pat­in­CAT)

Poetry on twit­ter is as var­ied in style as it is in con­tent. Twit­ter is home to in­ter­na­tional po­etry com­mu­ni­ties, of­fer­ing ad­vice on and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of these po­et­weets. New tech­nol­ogy has al­lowed a new po­etic form to spread. While po­etry is often con­sid­ered elit­ist and far re­moved from the re­al­ity of every­day life, poems ap­pear on peo­ple’s twit­ter­feeds on a daily basis. This may be con­sid­ered a de­moc­ra­ti­sa­tion of po­etry. What we read here is not de­cided by some lofty lit­er­ary canon, but by our tastes. The poets are not solely long dead, eter­nally mid­dle-aged white men, but peo­ple who are liv­ing, ob­serv­ing life, find­ing in­spi­ra­tion, and tweet­ing about it. Per­haps we may com­pare the po­et­weet’s ad­vance to that of the novel after the emer­gence of the print­ing press. In both cases, new tech­nolo­gies have al­lowed for new forms of art to reach the masses.

Qwerty/ copyright Trevor FountainAnd what do the masses think? Well, there are mixed opin­ions.

Some aren’t im­pressed. @K­wa­ha­rani­Ja­cobs’s re­sponse: ‘So you write poems all over fb and twit­ter? Omg you're soo deep!’ Yet oth­ers, such as @RightWingAn­gel, em­brace the op­por­tu­nity to share po­etry with strangers: ‘I told my Face­book friend that Twit­ter is a place where we share our poems with each other. She thinks that's won­der­ful. :)’ Then again, for some twit­ter is a dis­trac­tion from the cre­ative process, with @2­Much_­SOLE be­moan­ing that ‘If I didn't have a twit­ter.. I would have more poems.. Thanks twit­ter.

Qual­ity, of course, varies im­mensely. While one may cringe at the copy­righted ef­forts of @the­bluechild (Po­etry: My­Space is music Twit­ter is cool In­sta­gram has pic­tures Face­book has fools Copy­right : the­bluechild), I freely ap­plaud @In­Po­et­weet, who is at­tempt­ing to tweet a poem a day for a year:

Queen of Sheba sought the wis­dom of Solomon Trav­eled con­fi­dently into his land Brought her pre­cious riches to bear To find his an­swer there (@In­Po­et­weet)

@Twit­ter­Po­etry pro­vides its fans with log-in de­tails, pro­vid­ing a con­stant flow of po­etry to its three thou­sand fol­low­ers:

For all the leaves that fell, there were lit­tle whis­pers. Wind sounds, re­gret, or last breaths. Mo­ments, rest­ing and wait­ing to wither (@Twit­ter­Po­etry)

Ad­mit­tedly it’s a pretty mixed bag, but there’s some­thing nice about being able to de­cide for one­self what one likes, with­out feel­ing pres­sure to ad­mire the clas­sics.

So, po­et­weet. It’s all a bit alien to me right now, but there’s a strong chance I’ll be­come a fan. Per­haps I’ll even give it a shot my­self.

We’d love to see your ef­forts at po­et­weet. Keep them within 140 char­ac­ters and send them in! Tweet us at @slen­der_means.

Im­ages: © Trevor Foun­tain