Poets find a new box to play in: Twitter


My New Old Self was inspired to write a little poem in the inaugural post on this blog:

Now I realise that this ode to aging and homage to Macklemore is a Twitter-poem. Or twiHaiku. Or some kind of Poetry-Lite. Whatever you want to call a bit of verse when it’s 140 characters or less.


No surprise that the director of Britain’s Poetry Society, Judith Palmer, is pretty excited about this twend – I mean trend:

There’s a renewed interest in the form of British poetry at the moment and the constraints of the 140-character limit play to that, in the same way as the 14 lines of the sonnet or the 17 syllables of the haiku. Twitter poems tend to be playful and are often collaborative, but they’re also good for ‘Imagist’-style observation, or philosophical musing. They can reach a wide audience in moments but they’re also ephemeral, evaporating pretty as the Twitter-feeds roll relentlessly on.

Lots of famous poets have apparently taken to tweeting their poems. Britain’s Benjamin Zephaniah describes this way of connecting with his audience as “a better way of saying ‘I’m in the shop’”. A kind of poetic tinkling of the bell as you open the door to find him behind the counter. (One of us, as he was born in 1958, Zephaniah certainly has a way with words, poetic and prosaic, in declining the queen’s offer of an OBE: “I get angry when I hear that word ‘empire’.”)

Former American Poet Laureate Billy Collins tweets lines of his poems, calling it it “a new box to play in”. Although he couldn’t resist a dig against Twitter for co-opting “a once perfectly useful word to describe birdsong”.

And then there’s Jean-Yves Frechette of the Institute of – check it out, this is really what it’s called – Comparative Twitterature. He has not only published a volume of ______ (sorry, I can’t write that word without feeling like a twit). He has even defined the perfect tweeted poem of exactly 140 characters: a “twoosh”.

Do you find that you enjoy poetry more as you get older? My New Old Self does. Poems seem to resonate more these days. Maybe due to all that life experience that’s been amassed.

It’s also about time, in that there’s more of it to find and read poems. And now, even when you’re pressed for time, in the few minutes you’ve got while waiting for a bus or a doctor you can check out a micro-poem or two on Twitter.



Leave a Reply