The Poetics of Twitter

Kazim Ali
July 26, 2009
Comments 8

Is a poetics of brief utterance.

What can exist in the here and now with no dependence on before or after.

Paul Virilio: There is no here anymore, only now.

What he meant was a collapse of geography and distinction of place.

Or rather than collapse a conflation of all places into one place: the screen.

But what are the possibilities of a new form?

I have long loved single lines of poetry.

Olga Broumas: transitive body this fresco I mouth.

Agha Shahid Ali: of what shall I not sing and sing?

Cassandra via Aeschylus via Richmond Lattimore: And you come and strike these king-killers down in cold blood, avenge as well a simple slave who died, a small thing, lightly killed.

Anne Shaw is twittering (a prettier verb than tweeting, don’t you agree?) individual poems:

“help to winter me a small belief”

“i (in) visible”

“you bereft believer say you will return”

As in the court culture described in the The Tale of Genji, poetry and letter writing each become a public art, deliciously shared.

But also allows a bravery.

One can cast a thought into the silence.

And then another.

By discrete moments, little swabs, a life can appear.

There are already twitter-novels before there was Twitter. Carole Maso’s AVA, David Markson’s Reader’s Block.

Sentences and not paragraphs.

What Stein could have twittered. The thought leaves me breathless.

When I wanted to tell the story of my own life in a project called “Bright Felon,” I found I couldn’t bear chapters, nor paragraphs. Sentences I could manage.

As any mode–the book, the form of the novel, the form of a memoir, blog, webpage–the modes of information distribution are created and controlled by institutions in support of state and superstate (financial) power.

But any information that flows, any communication of the individual spirit, is always counter to the centralizing urge.

So I said things in Bright Felon the way I could. Slowly. One thing. And then another.

If Virilio is correct and there is only a now, then wouldn’t a chorus of coruscating voices from every last place in the world help us to believe once more in place, in actual human lives, bodies that really matter?

In Arabic, “word,” “breath,” and “spirit” are all the same: “ruh.”

Yoko Ono dreamed a film in which every single person in the world smiled.

What if every human body that existed was given a chance to say a single sentence of how she felt, what he was doing, what she dreamed of.

Once more from Anne Shaw: “begin again in whether”

8 thoughts on “The Poetics of Twitter

  1. Agreed, lovely observations. I am twittering a movie, inspired by Twitter’s experience as time-based media – and Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit, of course! In adapting it for Twitter I am having to edit a lot OUT and work with ‘the gap.’ You can follow it here @adelehugo, or the tumblr site http://adeleh.tumblr.com

  2. Greetings Kazim: Love what you say here– just wanted to chime in that I love AVA by Carole Maso too and that we own a rare copy of GRAPEFRUIT by Yoko Ono– and finally: to your list I would add your own white-space-wonder, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF SETH… and yes, \’twitter\’ beats \’tweet\’–
    cheers– Elizabeth

  3. thank you Kazim, your fine post:

    ‘Is a poetics of a brief utterance.

    But what are the possibilities of a new form?

    But also allows a bravery.

    One can cast a thought into the silence.

    And then another.

    Sentences and not paragraphs.

    When I wanted to tell the story of my own life…I found I couldn’t bear chapters, nor paragrpahs. Sentences I could manage.

    …any communication of the individual spirit, is always counter to the centralizing urge.

    So I said things in Bright Felon the way I could.
    Slowly. One thing. And then another.’

    and each of us (your readers) what we will !

    congratulations, ray gibbs

  4. I really like the sentiment you express here, Kazim, about single lines of poetry. It sort of echoes the old berrigan notion (though I’ve always thought that you need more than just a hording of great lines to make a great poem). But it seems like the more a poet can kind of micromanage the power of their poetry, the more I am interested in reading it. There are many manuscripts I know that are brilliant as a whole, but it seems to be more difficult for people to maintain that overall excellence while simultaneously distilling those powers in each unit smaller and smaller (ie- does each section work on its own, each poem, each stanza, line, etc?). I don’t feel poetry should be above lending itself well to sound bytes.

    And Anne Shaw’s twitter project is incredible. Glad to see it included here.

    Thanks for the article.

  5. “What if every human body that existed was given a chance to say a single sentence of how she felt, what he was doing, what she dreamed of.”

    As long as the sentence was under 140 characters!

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