Saturday, November 14, 2009

Twitter Ugliness, A Part Time Poet's Perspective.

Twitter Ugliness,
A Part Time Poet’s Perspective

I have been a writer for nearly 50 years, It scares me sometimes that I have been doing this for so damned long and all I have is a few publications, an honor here and there, a nice “Google,” and not much else. When I was a boy and I penned, or should say “penciled” plaintive rhymes and melodramatic stories in my little blue book I had no idea of what the life of a writer might be like.

What have I learned? Not much. Writing is hard, lonely, work that is. for the most part, not reinforced by the world. It is difficult to keep up one’s spirit, maintain focus and beat out work day after day, but that is the only way to write. One gets little recognition or encouragement, and those wonderful times when one does never last. Once again, a writer is back at the desk, with the pen or pencil, keyboard or computer.

It is even more difficult to be a “successful” writer, however one defines “success.” I define (or limit what I mean) as recognition, publication and readership. I don’t ask a lot, because I don’t have a lot of time to spend on an obsession that takes so much hard work, consumes so many of my limited free hours and makes “success” so difficult, even if my personal bar has been lowered to exclude any “financial” elements.

Many of my small successes have come from persistence, patience, and a period where I was unemployed and had the financial support of my spouse, before I had children, obligations, a mortgage and a full time gig. Since that productive time, I have published here and there, now and then. I was recently a finalist of the _OFF Magazine prize and will be in their upcoming, English/Polish inaugural issue in January of 2010. I have three new poems coming in the next issue of EX CATHEDRA, an online magazine I supported by submitting 3 poems. They were so eager to take all three I worry about what else will be in there. But that’s part of the biz, too. that uncertainty as to whether a publication source will accept, or publish, or fold before it can try.

I could not afford that uncertainty and the paucity of any financial element once I gained the responsibility of a spouse and family to support. Pragmatic things like insurance, a paycheck, a home and a school for them. All of those priorities take up so much time.
Time is indeed money, as my latest poem postulates. Without the money to assuage the hunt for shelter, food and family needs, the time is not there for anything else.

Time is money

The currency of time,
like one paid by the hour,
or one who might bill
his/her time to a client,
seconds/minutes spent.

It is a conceit that
makes sense, like an
hourglass filled with
gold dust measuring
the price of moments.

We can waste
time and kill it,
we can sped it
and save it.

Our wrists strapped
to timepieces, eyes fixed
on the long and short hands.
Each agonized tick squeezes
out into the bubble
of the white faced clock.

How can one consider
what is worth the while?

I still write, part time. I still publish, on occasion. I rarely read or travel or promote my work as I did when my work was in the Paris Review a number of times and Coal & Ice was new, nearly three decades ago. All that said, and reading back on what I have written, I am tempted to edit because I was wordy and too bloggishly confessional for my comfort zone. But no. I let it go. This is my notebook, lying open on a table if you care to read it.

The Twitter Experiment (ongoing)

I have been twittering daily since first weeks of 2007 and over that time have gathered more than 1,000 followers, many of whom I interact with, at the rate of several a week. For me, tweeting is “making public” or publishing my thoughts. My mental darts are not polished, and in a sense they are the opposite of the Roman ideal, allegedly practiced by Virgil of “one good line a day.”

I have been a student of Zen for many years and these are my approximation of the quick sketch of the “Sumi” painter, the calligrapher, almost eastern influenced meditations that I roll around in my head for a few minutes then put into 140 characters in one quick stroke, or more like one quick series of keystrokes.

Twitter has becomes an outlet for me, and in the bridge I am on, that spans from my working life to my retirement in a few years, it has been a light and upbeat positive reinforcement to my writing, much needed in “my craft and sullen art” I have come to look forward to the hour or so I spend online every day and collect ideas for tweets. Often, I get a reaction to an old tweet from a reader and it inspires a thread of tweets. I have used the material from these “nota” to build longer and more substantial poems. I found poets to follow and people whose efforts on the web, the environment, the arts, etc. I have grown interested in.

I really only had one problem. My URL provider ( where I get most of my e-mail, requires an extra account, a “bounce” as a backup when you create your e-mail account. My bounce, however, got upgraded and started rejecting copies of DM’s sent to my e-mail account. This drove Twitter crazy and they started putting up big red flags to “check my e-mail” when I signed in. I kept ignoring these because I was, and still am, getting e-mail copies of all my DM’s, many of which were girls who wanted to lure me to their dating site, or guys with surefire stock purchasing plans, or mom’s who knew how to cheaply whiten my teeth, or people who had secret electronic skills with twitter that would enable me to get rich, become a millionaire, roll in dough.

Last week, I was spoofed. I feel like a naive “nubie” tricked into following an infected follower’s question as to if I had appeared in a photo on the web. Alarms should have gone off when I had to sign in again but it was late and I was sleepy and I signed off innocently and went to sleep. The next day, I started getting DM’s from followers and soon realized what had happened. It took hours but I got every spoof DM out of my sent box and reconfigured my password. Another few days and I started receiving new spoof invites from others, but I ignored them. No problems, I thought.

Finally, upon awakening last Saturday morning and attempting to sign on, I was locked out of twitter. My name and password were no longer the right combination. No way in. So I followed the prompts to the help page and submit my problem. A day later an automated response comes back. It was an unfriendly and ungainly process to finally bet my submission ticket #657031, but hoping that number didn’t start out as 000001 that Saturday morning, I write out a detailed e-mail and I waited.

Two days and no response, so I re-read the e-mail and I notice that it sort of palms off the problem as a “significant bug” and “caching issues,” as if the problem was too technical to explain and now is solved, so I respond again. The e-mail claims that there is an open job and the information on the reply will be attached to that ticket to provide information to track the problem and respond more quickly. I review all the facts and offer a new e-mail address.

I wait. Days pass. I write and the Help prompt writes back that it is not accepting any more help complaints for now. I have a number, a ticket so I feel assured. But now, I am still waiting. It has been a full week and I have answered every question, supplied every detail, provided a new e-mail and written a half dozen impatient responses to their inability to acknowledge receipt of my additional information, my new e-mail address, or any progress at all on the problem.

For all I know, they are drinking beer and smoking cigars on a Cuban beach while their server farm hums happily attended by interns. I guess this is all part of “publishing.” Short of printing up broadsides and selling them on the street, whenever you use a media controlled by someone else, you are totally surrendering to their whim. So. What’s new. Haven’t you always had that sort of relationship with “publishers?”


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