Friday, May 29, 2009

The Twitter Experiment

The Twitter Experiment

In the subjective mood, let me say, would that I could write poetry all the time, alas, and if I could but lie abed, or sit beneath a greeny bough, with quill in hand, I would so like to for hours on end. write that is.

However, “poetry,” being one letter and a transposition away from “poverty,” makes making a living a necessity. I must support my poetry habit, and ironically, the very act of working seems to weaken my focus on writing. I arrive home too tired to concentrate.

I find when I spend my days waking, preparing for work, working, the commute to and fro, and finally, if I have a moment between supper and bedtime, writing, I can’t be consistent. Sometimes I get off a good shot, as in this poem, which I wrote as part of the Poem a Day Challenge from Writer’s Digest.


It was the cows and pigs that did it. Seeing what
Was intended for them, what their futures contained;
Seeing how their herds would be gathered and numbered,
Drove us further out into the sea. From shores, bays, rivers,
Feeding in the shallows, we swam out further, deeper, away.
The vast oceans became our pastures, our grazing ground.

Eventually, a hand became a fin, leg variations formed a fluke,
The canals of the ear lessened and the lungs grew and changed -
Fifteen million years, a day against the age of dirt, the age of water.
Now with one breath held for hours, diving down negative mountains
Deep into black waters, we sing arias to each other, with low notes
Few others can hear, long mournful songs of grass and flowers, sweet
Water and green fields waving in the wind as far as the eye can see.

I am incorporating some of the language and thinking in a new piece I am writing for the theater about Darwin. I try to keep working on poems and stories and even plays, but I always seem pressed for time, and when I have time, unable to go uninterrupted for as long as I need.

I fall asleep at the keyboard. Weekends seem to slip away. Holidays often involve family or travel. but always consume time. And now it is wedding, graduation, vacation season, all of which take time from writing. These, of course, are excuses, a long list of crappy excuses, actually for not writing.

Which brings me to my Twitter experiment. I have, since March of 2008, been twittering, at least a line every day. I have 500 plus updates, most of them small poems, some fragments, some just ideas or observations that I might grow into something more. Sharing these spontaneous utterances is fun and freeing. I don’t pretend to be submitting them for publication, but the poetry process, or at least the one I follow, is there for the 400+ people who are following the experiment to see, comment on, share, etc.

One of the best parts of this is my reintroduction to haiku, one of my favorite short forms that I had gotten away from in my drive to be accepted by American academia. Once, I was much more a citizen of the world, who sought out other poets, other forms, other heroes. Here are a few of my haiku, published on

Climbing the mountain,
I look back to see how much
I have forgotten.

King Dandelion’s charge,
armies overtake the field,
laughing yellow flags.

The toddler stumbles,
walking wobbly on weak legs.
An old man recovers.

Crows flock to spilled grain.
In the wagon's path feeding
on the farmer's luck.

Take away ego.
You do that and you are there!
But, how will "I" know?

The short form is back
“Mot just!” Disciplined. Succinct.
It did not leave me.

The essence of these short forms is a single thought, or ideally a binding together of two different thoughts into a unifying whole: this string of words implying polarity, a syzygy with each pole linked to its opposite, two forgotten thoughts tied in a knot.

That thought like most of the poetry that follows was thrown out like a verbal improv that I then recorded on twitter, through thwirl or another offshoot, sometimes at home, or at work, on a desktop, a laptop, someone else’s device, always attempting to get in my head a complete burst and then release it like a thrown dart. Here are some samples:

This poem is like candy: chocolate-smooth right off the bat with a caramel center chewy-Louie, gooey, topped off with more smooth-chocolate.

A short soft song, or a subtle, sensuous dance, a poem can be made at once, like Sumi, an image of shape in rhythm, inked in thought & gone.

We are peeling this poem's skin, slowly revealing the flesh of the fruit and the seed buried within. Juices are sluicing on our red tongues.

This poem is like a fortune cookie, gluten-free, paperless. It cracks open and says, You must swim in the now, not dream of an island beach.

This poem is a box; here's a lid. The sides are straight & the bottom flat. Inside are the words you dare not reveal to anyone. Quick, lid!

I have other examples of ideas that are leading to longer things. I am still working on how all those pieces come together. Meanwhile, I wanted to keep anyone who cares posted on my progress.


John Guzlowski said...

Enjoyed these, Phil.

jimholley88 said...

I need to reread of all these. I love your use of the language. Excellent