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The Medium Is the Poem: Micropoetry on Twitter

by An Xiao on October 8, 2013

micropoemmain

(screenshot via micropoetry.com)

OAKLAND, Calif. — A few weeks ago, I wrote about Heyku, a new app that takes an Instagram approach to poetry. One of our readers, Luke Agbaimoni, wrote in about his site, micropoetry.com, which features some of the existing practices of poets online. It offers a survey of micropoetry practices on Twitter and text message, along with a great list of hashtags that Twitter’s poetry community uses.

“Twitter made the hashtag famous, and this worked well for poetry,” noted Agbaimoni in an interview with Hyperallergic. Micropoetry had existed in previous media, including texting, but the social media site’s popularity brought the practice to a new level.  ”After seeing a person appending their tweets with the hashtag #twaiku#tanka or #haiku, people were encouraged to find out more and even attempt to compose a micropoem of their own.” When Twitter introduced line breaks, that also helped the online community create poems that were easier to parse and read.

As these hashtags suggest, traditional Japanese poetic forms like haiku (17 syllables) and tanka (31 syllables) are ideally suited for Twitter’s brevity. Additionally, these poems were intended as creative dialogues, making the social aspect of Twitter relevant as well. In can be easy to read Twitter’s rapid fire nature as contra the meditative quality of poetry, but that feature couldn’t be more relevant.

“There are some who go so far as to say that a haiku belongs in the moment,” wrote haiku poet and organizer Sean Kolodji in an interview with HyperallergicKolodji organized a panel on Twitter and haiku at the 2013 Haiku North America conference, the largest such gathering on the continent.  ”Some have talked about a philosophy of writing and sharing a poem in the moment and then tearing it up/burning it. In some ways, Twitter fits well with this philosophy. Though it is permanently in the web, the poem lives only for a moment at the top of the Twitter feeds and then gets lost in Twitter archives as time goes on and new poems take its place.”

One of the critical features of the online micropoetry, as Kolodji pointed out, is that the internet has made it easier to build a worldwide community.  Haiku and tanka are not widely taught in schools, and sites like Heyku and informal hashtag communities help create a bridge for poets, who might be scattered around a wide variety of English-speaking communities, from North America to India to Australia.  This creates the opportunity for new ways to publish voices for a wider audience.

Want to get started with the micropoetry community? Be sure to check out Agbaimoni’s terrific list of hashtags, with live hashtag curation thanks to Twitter’s embed code. Some of my favorites include #smallstone, centered around the online journal of the same name, and #story140, a collection of short short stories in 140 characters.

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