Poetry - Poetry 140: Twitter Poetry


For our Twitterature weekend, Susan Omand tells us why she loves Twitter poetry...

I love all poetry, you know that by now, but I especially love poetry on Twitter. I maybe need to explain that I don’t mean the links on Twitter that lead to offline poems, or the ones that are attached as pictures to Tweets, I mean the poetry actually written within the 140 character limit of a single tweet, two at a push.

You see, the thing with poetry is that it is out to elicit emotion through mental imagery. You know that poetry is bad if it doesn’t make you feel anything, good or bad. As with all art, no reaction to it is much, much worse for the endeavour than a negative reaction because at least there has been a reaction and you have been made to feel something. Everyone’s perception of a poem is, and should be, different and this is especially true with Twitter poetry. To me though, the only person who knows how something looks and feels in a Twitter poem is the reader.

Yes. The reader. Not the writer.

When Twitter poetry, indeed all Twitter fiction, is done well it only takes a few words to build entire worlds in a reader’s imagination. This makes it a challenging, but very visceral and exciting, read as nothing is spoonfed and you have to make your brain work to get something from it. There are no wasted words, gentle build or superfluous simile trying to make the reader see what the writer intends. Instead they evoke their own imagery, straight from the gut. Twitter poetry is raw and emotional. The images, feelings, projected into your brain are vivid and stark. Because of the huge constraint on space it cannot be anything else. The technicalities of poetry also go out the window as there is no time to ensure regular rhythm, scansion or rhyme so it has to be full on and in-your-face. That’s why books of Twitter poetry are so hard for people to get into, as there is no rest, no respite from the constant bang, bang, bang of images and emotions that are fired at you. It is so full-on that it takes time to process each thought, each feeling, each image and to give it the attention it deserves. If you try to read a lot of it at once you get a bit overloaded or jaded. A bit like riding a roller coaster I guess - you need to step off to enjoy the experience.

Think of Twitter poets as punks in a Victorian world. Noisy and incongruous, loitering on the corners, throwing imagery around and playing with emotions in a very “this is who we are, how we are, take it or leave it” attitude. There’s no half measures with Twitter poetry. You either love it or hate it. Personally I love it, the brain rush, but it’s your decision. Nobody else can make it for you. It really becomes like a drug when, once addicted, your brain clamours for more imagery to process and fire off, more emotion to deal with and analyse. If you can’t, or don’t want to, handle it you have to go out of your way to avoid it. You and it can’t exist harmoniously in the same circles.

Just know that you can’t ignore it. It simply won’t let you.