© By Boinkaz
Italians have a saying, about people:
“When they’re born they’re all beautiful,
when they marry, they’re all happy,
and when they die, they were all good.”
This sentiment could as easily be applied to poetry: Twitter would have us believe there are no bad poems, only bad poets who write them. That all of our experiences are equally as valuable and that the poems that come out the other end are not better nor worse than each other, just different.
Er, no. That is incorrect.
Over the next few posts I’m going to outline a few tricks, and other things to keep in mind when you are writing. I hope this will be of service to you if you are a poet just starting out, or if your poetry is texty, and you know it.
The beautiful thing about a Twitter poem is that it is just the right length for “normal”–non poet–readers to consume, without sticking a finger down his or her throat. Twitter poems are more evocative and impactful than a Haiku. They’re like mini Sonnets, a few syllables short of a limerick. Let’s face it, you never heard of anybody getting lucky in love, gaining political power, or being sent to the gallows for writing a haiku. Haikus are to make Samurai look intelligent instead of the classist militarist thugs they were for so many centuries.
No, Twitter poems are different. You have only 140 characters (less with the hashtags) in which to write a Twitter poem, so you have to make every word count. Here are a few simple steps to help you out. Once you get good at this, you can then go ahead and smash the paradigm I am presenting to you now.
1. Focus on concrete and visual imagery. Concrete imagery gives you mountains more material to work with. In some cultures–Islamic ones for example–it is considered rude to make personal comments about people, much less depict the Prophet or deity of the faith, at all. This creates a problem for poets, because there are only so many ways you can say, for example, compare a woman to a pearl.
2. Another trick is to focus on words that generate very specific images rather than stating the emotion outright. For example, one might write “jet stream” instead of “sky”, or “brown sewn chinchilla” instead of “blanket.” So if you want to write “I miss you cuz yer gone and done me wrong” you might say instead say “You swung yer meat cleaver through mah plexus from Texas, and eviscerated me with yer sarcasm, and a brown tomcat done fed on the chitterlings”
The more specific, the better. You with me?
3. Now while those universal emotions of love, separation, and death may feel more “genuine” if expressed directly as a raw emotion it has been done, like a zillion times before and you’re in the process of developing your own “voice”, not having it get lost in the hue and cry of the banal pack. So concrete image. Specific. Bang bang bang goes my fist on the tabletop.
4. Try to state what it is you’re talking up front in the first couple of words, then the commentary can flow afterwards. There are other ways, but this is the simplest. To whit:
Death, be not proud.
John Donne nails it in one. As another example, look at this poem I knocked out this morning (April 8).
Ladies & Germs!
Syntomy in arpeggio->
& farty anecdotes.
It’s like a joke, see? By using “Germs” we give it a Groucho Marx feel and it sets the scene immediately, and visually. Another thing to note in this poem–as an aside–is this: Syntomy was a #15tt writing prompt word and it’s a word that people probably won’t use any time soon, so in a strange way the only immediate audience for the poem is the other people writing to the prompt. That said, it’s also a clunky word. how I dealt with this is I “balanced” syntomy with an equally clunky word, Arpaggio–rapid fire. Set these babies up and then the events that evoke the poem roll right out and continue until we get to the end: the “punch line”. This is where the mind takes off with some kind of realization or some final words tie it all together. In this instance it’s kind of a sneering insult.
5. Don’t take poetry, whether Twitter or otherwise, too seriously. They’re only words. However, if you as a matter of habit are a person who spills their guts in online poetry, be aware that you are running a risk. A lot of poetry that is self-revelatory carries emotional blow-back for the author when it is criticized by strangers online. Which is not to say you shouldn’t do it, but you should be aware that someone may rain on your real-life parade. While there may be people out here who can offer you advice, for the most part we’re disembodied voices on the Internet living lives you cannot properly comprehend.
6. Poetry doesn’t have to be all about love, flowers and Che Guevara. It can be about anything. I do a lot of history for example or will write about places I’ve been in a way that is kind of a compressed anecdote more than an epiphany.
7. Poetry is about reach. Having your stuff read by plenty of people is the measure of success, and if it can make you a few bucks, great. Don’t be afraid to use hashtags or write poems to writing prompts. Word prompts are the places to dig up other people like you.
I’ll cover more observations on this medium in future posts.