Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Twitter Verse and the Rise of Poetry

Poetry seems to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence, at least in the headlines. Aside from the appointment of the new poet laureate, there was the Wimbeldon Poet (as heard on Only a Game), and then, about a month ago, NPR ran a story about Twitter verse. Not as in the "Twitter Universe" but as in verse - poetry - on Twitter. Given the format of Twitter, this isn't sonnets or odes, but haiku.

I happen to be a fan of haiku, always have been. One of the poetry volumes on my shelves is dedicated to Japanese poetry, so there are a fair amount of haiku on the pages. (At least I think it's still on my shelf. I'll have to check to make sure it didn't get donated somewhere along the way.) Now, in translation, they don't exactly adhere to the rules we all learned back in middle school, but they are all short, succinct, and evocative.

That they have started cropping up on Twitter should probably not be surprising. The 140 character limit necessitates a certain brevity of expression, and while I suspect the vast majority of Twitter users are not waxing poetic, it heartens me a little to think that some of them either rose to the challenge or saw the opportunity for more creative expression. I myself have trouble writing flash fiction, which is less than 100 words (or so), let alone getting things down to haiku level, so I am a little bit in awe of those that can not only do so, but do so with regularity.

I suspect not all the poetic entries on Twitter are intended. The confines of the media lend themselves to accidental poetry, if you will, where in the effort to convey as much as possible in as little as possible, some people are going to craft gems. Some of them may not even realize the poetic possibilities in their Twits - or is that Tweets? It's Tweets, isn't it? - unless it's pointed out to them.

Which I think is just fine. Truth be told, I think a lot of the more traditional haiku were the traditional equivalent of these Tweets in the first place. You have a poet, sitting at a pond, or beneath the leaves of trees (yes, most haiku have some sort of nature theme, but this is in keeping with various aspects of the country they come from, including the heavy presence of both Shinto and animism), who then tried to convey, as briefly as possible, not only what he was seeing but also the emotions and thoughts that were going on at the same time. It's not quite the mundanity of "Walked the dog, did the laundry" but it is in the same spirit.

It is also this trend for poetry on Twitter that has me easing off a little bit of my criticism of Twitter and other social update media (like Facebook) which, on reflection, I think are somewhat overextended, overused, and over-hyped. That's another entry, however. Or two. Yet if it can foster a resurgence in creative expression, I can't really decry it as all bad.

It's not enough to get me using Twitter again - that experiment is firmly in the "tried and died" category - but, then again, I'm not much of a short verse poet, either.