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Friday, January 18, 2013

How Come Poets Don't Mess with Twitter More? A Conversation with Greg Bem

Posted by on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Twitter's the best—a constant flow of voices and jokes and breaking news and politics and Paris Review interviews and porn and poetry. Well, actually, not that much poetry. How come poetry isn't bigger on Twitter? Poetry is made for Twitter. Line breaks are Twitter. Recently I—@thefrizzelle, if you would like to follow me—started following the Seattle poet Greg Bem—@gregbem—on Twitter. Greg Bem does something that someone I know who loves literature finds "annoying," but which I love: A gust of Greg Bem occasionally fills up the feed.

Like so (read from bottom to top, of course):

tweetscreengrabgregbem.png

These jags don't go on too long. Ten or twelve tweets tops. Often they're tweeting-about-tweeting type tweets. By doing these gusts, or feeds, or tweet-poems, or whatever you'd call them, Bem's operating Twitter in a way Twitter's not supposed to operate. The individual tweets don't lend themselves to retweeting, and if you retweet all of them, that's a sure way to lose followers. It's not surprising Greg Bem doesn't have thousands of followers. Using Twitter like this is beautiful and completely useless—like poetry itself.

I emailed Greg and asked if I could ask him some questions over gchat about his tweet poem things, including whether he had any better ideas for what to call these... things... other than "Tweet Poem Things." He answered my questions while riding light rail.

I took a screen grab of you taking over my twitter last night. But you just took over for a second. It was beautiful.
Oh good! Thank you. I am a twitter imperialist. Empire.

Do you do these sudden flurries of tweets all the time?
Without any significant body of flowers. Followers. I do but only in four month intervals. I leave twitter around April and come back in January.

This thing I took a screen grab of—is that a poem? It looks like a poem.
I think it's the new way poetry can be. It's fast. It's fragmented. It better represents the way folks like to think. Do think. It's also twitter, so the words are going somewhere and yet not going anywhere.

It's like a hybrid of a spoken-word poem and a traditionally published poem. It's not quite spoken but it's also not quite "published."
How do you fill your time? I see so many people who scroll through their iAndroids just looking at their icons. Hold on. Tunnel. Fucking Beacon Hill.

How do you feel when another tweet interrupts your tweet-poem-thing? An ad for Sprint recently interrupted a Tweet Poem Thing of yours. God it really needs a better name than "Tweet Poem Thing."
Tweeting is disposable but it retains the everyday life value. Frank O'Hara would go out on his lunch breaks then return to write the poem. But he was spontaneously experiencing the art of the world. That makes up the content and abstractions yadda yadda. And so I think twitter allows a much cleaner and synchronized way to be some Herald of representation. And it's fun because it's silent and who knows if there's a god Damn point. Auto correct to capitalize ftw. Okay. Interruptions. That's discourse. That's equity. That's invasion and noise. Last year was John Cage. Is twitter still relevant now that John Cage isn't trending? When thinking of tweets mingling like teenagers I think of sex, war, and drugs.

Do you write your Tweet Poem Things in advance, and then tweet each line, or on the fly?
On the fly. Completely spontaneous.

Do you have any intention of writing more formally complicated Tweet Poem Things and then tweeting them? Like a sonnet, say? One line per tweet?
I've done that. Mostly I stick with general content themes. It's hard to care about form when twitter is already so much about form.

You've tweeted a sonnet you wrote?
Not sonnets but tweets more or less bound by lines. Do you know I hate sonnets? Do you like sonnets? I put out a chapbook of tweets online last year, Black Hole document.

I didn't know that. Yeah, I like the whiplash at the end of a sonnet. I'm a whiplash fan. Plus I like a structural challenge. I like watching someone nail it. Would a sonnet need to be tweeted in reverse, so the ending would be tweeted first, so you could read it top to bottom? That would be a nice inversion to the usual inversion.
Maybe I'll make one for you. A sonnet. Not a challenge.

Your chapbook is called Black Hole document?
The last one. Here's the link. Yup! Old school. 2012 and shit.

Are there other poets you follow who use twitter in poetic ways? I guess I don't follow many poets on Twitter. In one way it seems like Twitter was made for poets.
I can forward you a list. Blake Butler (@blakebutler) is a good one. Walt Whitman is tweeting actively—not joking (@TweetsOfGrass). There are some local folks too. Like Matthew Simmons (@matthewjsimmons). Ed Skoog has tweeted some poetic tweets in his time (@theedskoog). Also @dianasalier, @LauraSpagnoli, @christianbok, @chen_village, @dogsdoingthings. And, not poets but inspiring poetically for Twitter purposes: @Twortmanteaus, @alaindebotton, @KimJongNumberUn.

When's the next time someone can hear you read your poetry in "IRL," as Walt Whitman likes to say?
Hahahah. Good question. I'm going to be featured at the fourth Greenwood Lit Crawl on 4/20/13 and I'm going to be reading text entirely composed by spambots.

One more question: Do you have a better name for what you did than Tweet Poem Thing? It needs a name.
Hmmm. I'll have to think about it. Maybe you can do one of those polls The Stranger does. I just read an NYT article from 2011 about old school poets doing stuff on twitter, two terms came up: "twitterature" and "poetweet." I would say that this is very twitterary and it's not very twtterroistic.

"Poetweet" reminds me of "poo-tee-weet" from Slaughterhouse-Five, the sound that bird keeps making. Maybe your Tweet Poem Things should be called poo-tee-weets.
Poo-tee-weets. Great. I'd tweet about that. Gold prize.

 

Comments (4) RSS

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1
I'm a particular fan of @brendlewhat.

"why do we have to learn about american exceptionalism if it's already woven into the fabric of our existence from birth?? #stupid #boring"
Posted by Ruke on January 18, 2013 at 6:03 PM · Report this
Jerry M. Ander 2
Speaking of spontaneous poetry, (almost) every Monday night, at 11 PST, you can find new entries by the (not at all) Japanese Masters of #hamburgerhabithaiku.
Posted by Jerry M. Ander on January 18, 2013 at 7:33 PM · Report this
yelahneb 3
This post reads like a brilliant parody of itself. For a moment, I thought I was reading McSweeney's.
Posted by yelahneb http://www.strangebutharmless.com on January 18, 2013 at 10:19 PM · Report this
4
@3, I will always cherish
I emailed Greg and asked if I could ask him some questions over gchat about his tweet poem things, including whether he had any better ideas for what to call these... things... other than "Tweet Poem Things." He answered my questions while riding light rail.
Posted by gloomy gus on January 19, 2013 at 7:25 AM · Report this

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