To Tweet, To Who…..or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hive Mind

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Poetry appearing on this page was produced with the generous support of artsACT

So. On 23 May 2011, I discovered Twitter. Well…not ‘discovered’ so much as ‘actually began using and enjoying’. 

Right now you are either thinking ‘I can barely handle Facebook, get thee behind me’ or ‘sad Gen X dinosaur, you only beat Jerry Seinfeld by a few weeks, and by Christmas it will be just you and him tweeting at each other because everyone else will have shifted over to Google+’

 Bear with me please, both groups. I promise there will be funny jokes further down.

 So why am I bothering to write this down and share it on the interwebs, more than five years after the Twitter site first launched? Because I am blown away by the fact that the Twitterverse is much much better than I thought it would be, and I want to take a moment to record that fact before it goes the way of Usenet and Commodore 64s. Like many non-Tweeps, I had thought it was just for pre-teens who wanted to know what Justin Bieber picked out of his nose yesterday. Instead, I have found:

  •  In two months I have made dozens of new contacts in my fields of interest (poetry, autism, books, literature, social comment and people who write funny stuff). Many of these people live overseas and I have never met any of them (or their friends), so this is networking and sharing I could not do very efficiently on Facebook, and could do even less efficiently on the wider internet via laborious time consuming searches. Twitter is searchable by conversation topic so it is easy to find and ‘follow’ people talking about things you are interested in.
  • Suddenly I feel like I am ahead of the news, rather than hopelessly behind it like most parents of young children. I was all over John Birmingham v Bob Ellis, Geoff Lemon v the Carbon Tax Whingers, Noni Hazelhurst and GTF to Sleep v YouTube, and The Bloggess’ Giant Metal Chicken well before the ‘mainstream’ media. ‘Slipstream’ media, more like it.
  • Limiting posts to 140 characters is *great* discipline for a writer.

 It has even started to influence my poetry. There are already a gazillion Twitter poets (see this New York Times article from March of this year) so I do not pretend to any great originality there. But it is new for me, and it is fun squeezing things down into such a tight space. I find it makes for very very spare and (occasionally) hard hitting micropoetry. Also I like how the #hashtag (a way of manually tagging the topic of the tweet so other Twitter users can find and join the conversation) adds another dimension, working like a commentary or postscript (or preamble or title) to the actual poem.

To illustrate, I’m going to finish with the complete Tworks of @MelindaLSmith, micropoet. Enjoy, comment below, and if you are also a Tweep then come follow me. I promise to follow you back 🙂

Twitter Poems by @MelindaLSmith

Autism poems

my boy perches on the pool’s edge/flapping his wet hands/people are staring/he sees only me, and grins:/’I caught an imaginary trout’ #ASD

#micropoetry #ASDparenting #firsteverjointsleepover Both sons away tonight/after 7 years/I don’t recognise this quiet/or this calm

Boy-Girl poems

@Twaiku_Poetry: If she says she doesn’t like poetry, run #micropoetry #advice #lifelessons
.@Twaiku_Poetry: if she says she *is* a poet, run faster #micropoetry #lifelessons #youaintnoboyfriendsuckayoumaterialnow

#divorcepoem they say this too shall pass/ – passing is no good to me / I just want him back like he was / before he betrayed us

your electricity / prickles and hums / I ache to close the circuit / but I dare not / flip the switch #micropoetry

#aubadeyourselfbastard you don’t tell me this is goodbye/but I hear it in the stutter, the buzz/of your zip closing #micropoetry

Moving house poems

#realestatepoem He said, ‘We’ll uplift your home/onto the internet’/- but then/ this hole in the ground/will look nothing like the pictures

#realestatepoem2 seven years / of divots and small fingerprints / this fresh paint / claims they never happened

Random poems

What can 140 characters hold? News of near misses, small wars, large arguments; the singing of bullets, the murmur of hearts? Such birdsong!

bottle of red / half empty / – or hangover / half full ? #micropoetry #koanp1sstake #toooldtodrinklikethisanymore

#inthenightkitchen #micropoetry the fridge makes small sighs/testing the silence/the central heating rumbles and sings/you are not alone

Love song of autistic husband

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Poetry appearing on this page was produced with the generous support of artsACT

Yet another draft autism poem. This one is in the voice of a high functioning autistic husband talking to his neurotypical wife. It is not meant to be a portrait of a particular relationship, but it owes a lot to Edgar Schneider’s book Discovering My Autism and a little to the film Snow Cake.

The poem also explores a particular kind of slightly awkward, repetitive rhythm. I’d be really grateful for any feedback.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways
– Isaiah 55:8

Love song of autistic husband

It is pleasant to see you;
when I’m near you I’m happy –
and if ever you leave me
I will think it a pity –

but my love is not your love.
You assume that your feelings
are a halo around you
I could see if I tried to;

that your heart is a mystery
I could solve if I wanted –
but to me it’s an organ
and the secrets inside it

are just muscles contracting.
I am always a stranger
understanding you sideways
but I’ll always be loyal;

I can’t help being truthful
I remember the housework
and I’m there for the children –
surely these are important ?

Yet you say that you ‘need me
to be much more supportive’
or you ‘crave’ my ‘affection’
but ‘don’t want to be sexual’;

you protest I ignore you
that I’m cold and distracted –
but you might as well tell me
in Icelandic or Martian.

You insist I’m withholding
all my tenderness from you
but it’s not like a river
that I’ve slyly diverted:

it is more like an absence
like a cave or a sinkhole.
When we fight (so you tell me)
you are harrowed with terror

but my anger is over
when my voice has stopped shouting –
it is you seems to carry
little scars for a lifetime.

When I think of the future
I consider you dying:
what will stretch me to breaking
won’t be grief at your going

but the alien business
of the funeral, the lawyers.
My routine will be scrambled
I’ll be sick to my stomach

I will shout at the children
I will leave the wake early
and when later I’m solo
I will balk at your absence

I’ll be frightened and angry
  – but I don’t think I’ll cry.

(c) Melinda Smith 2011

An autistic woman explains the terror of affection

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Poetry appearing on this page was produced with the generous support of artsACT

The following draft poem (comments welcome) is inspired by Donna Williams’ book Nobody Nowhere. In the book she describes how, as a young woman with autism, feeling affection and closeness with another person was a terrifying experience for her, and made her fear that she would be ‘swallowed up’. She did, however, sometimes feel closeness with inanimate objects, and objects associated with certain loved people would become very special to her. It is an extremely powerful book – highly recommended.

The draft poem below is also in the form of a glosa (a poem that responds to another poem and uses some of the original poem’s lines as stanza endings in the new poem). The original poem is ‘Circle and Square’ by Edwin Muir, and the bit I’ve decided to start a conversation with (and use the lines from) is the final stanza, quoted at the start. The full poem can be found here.

Give, but have something to give.
No man can want you all.
Live and learn to live.
When all the barriers fall
you are nothing at all.    
        – Edwin Muir, ‘Circle and Square’. 

An autistic woman explains the terror of affection

A rushing of the sea:
your smile is drowning me –
I have to fight to live.
Why can’t you let me be ?
I feel in negative:
Distress is all you give.

Lost as I have been
I dare not let you in
however loud you call.
I cower in my skin
I curl into a ball.
No man must have me all.

You want to show you care?
You will not reach me there,
that is not where I live.
Just barely touch my hair
– that, I may forgive.
Live, and let me live.

Or give me for my own
a button or a stone –
something smooth and small  –
and when I am alone
I’ll feel you through this wall.
But when the barriers fall

I cannot meet your eye;
you stab me when you try
to look at me at all.
To let you is to die.
I’ll go under, I’ll fall –
I’ll be nothing at all.

(c) Melinda Smith 2011

Wedding Sonnet

This is an older poem of mine (first published in Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, 2001) but I’ve had a few requests for it lately so I’m popping it up onto this blog to save me having to email it all over the place. It was originally written for the wedding of a dear friend, but has since been to four or five weddings and is shortly to go to more. If you think you would like to use it at your wedding, please ask me first (using the comments field below).

Wedding Sonnet

I’ll never shed a new light upon ‘love’
– my weeks of feeble flickering outshone
by centuries of flaming words upon
bright pages. Over and above
that fire, I have one tiny spark to cast,
and that’s to testify the truth of this:
the joy lime-lit by all those songs, that bliss,
you give to me each day, from first to last.

Today we marry, bathed both in that glow.
Today we marry, and tonight we leave
this smiling ring of lights, and inch away
to dimmer places fewer torches know
along a winding path. But I believe
two candles are enough to light the way.

(c) Melinda Smith 2001

Waiting for the sun

I am a sundial
in a sunken garden.

On the days when you show your face
I bask, all those long warm hours.
You only see me when I glow,
borrowing your radiance –

but behind me, where you cannot see,
circles a cold shadow blade.

It gets longer the closer you are to leaving,
and in it
are all the iron-frost memories
of the days when you do not come.

from Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004.  Set to music by choral composer Sandra Milliken and performed in Brisbane in 2004.