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

artsACT

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

I prefer

artsACT

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

Another draft poem. This one plays around with a common writing exercise, where you have to write a series of statements in the form of ‘I prefer x to y’. When you try writing one of these poems about yourself it is almost always BORING and unavoidably solipsistic. Try writing one from the point of view of someone else – say, an autistic child – and the result is, hopefully, more worth reading…

I prefer

serious illness to surprises
computers to my brother
reading number plates to Christmas morning

straight lines
submerging my ears in a warm bath to waterslides
deep fat fryers to matchbox cars

torture to haircuts
libraries to birthday parties
standing ankle-deep in ocean

tenpin bowling to climbing trees
looking at things out of the corner of my eye
Sonic the Hedgehog to family time

death to dentist visits
my mother with her glasses off
plastic wheelie bins to petting zoos

not to see my school friends outside of school
cricket statistics to Toy Story
chewing clothes-pegs to talking

rules to freedom
truth to sarcasm
home

to be left alone

(c) Melinda Smith 2011

Stirring

The year I was fifteen
when the Show came to town
I went all on my own money.
I won at the laughing clowns,
had a whole fairy floss
to myself
and went on the gravitron
without throwing up.

Walking home afterwards, I left my girlfriends
at the corner,
headed uphill alone to the rectory.
The grassy side of the street
muffled all footsteps: the first sound I heard
was a whump between my shoulder blades.
Hot, shocked tears
stung into my eyes.
I whipped round, wheezing.
Rolling at my feet:
a half-eaten apple.
Twenty steps behind:
the Year 10 boys in a mob.

I could still feel the apple
in my back, a spreading
target-shape of stunned skin.
          ‘Hey, priesty-girl.  Goin’ ta church?
          Run home and cry to Daddy’.
Lava rose in my chest, hotter
even than tears.
My mouth opened
every swear word
I had ever learned
spewed from me
piling up
with the apple crumbs on the ground
until I was knee-deep
in filthy
glowing
four-letter
coals.

The street went very quiet.
Fifteen bum-fluffed jaws
dropped into the silence.

From Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004

Spring Street

One block long (and almost as wide)
the peeling houses and mangy lawns
faced each other all down the road:
a workers’ parade of ‘semi-detacheds’.

At one end, like a mislaid chunk
of ancient wedding cake, still sat
the town’s first Council Chambers (sunk
by then to the status of Sunday School).

From there to the cheapie patho-lab
behind steel bars at the other end
was property of the Spring Street Mob:
our one-road realm all afternoon.

There were the Brewers, who, if you ‘crawled’
would let you go on their slip’n’slide
all the way down their muddy backyard
in the merciless summer hoildays;

and ‘no-bath’ Mick, with snot-nosed sisters
sporting rag-doll hair; and Kim
who got the trampoline for Christmas
and split her head on Boxing Day;

and the Snells, who everybody knew
were far too closely interbred
(each year a wobbly girl or two
would pop out a child to her brother or dad).

We used to have raucous games of cricket
– the ‘our end’ kids against the rest –
with no ‘LB’, and a steel bin wicket.
Any front yard was six and out.

I remember the time the boys got caught
exploding the Hennessys’ letterbox.
The flames had leapt to fourteen feet
(or so the ropable mother claimed).

My brother said ‘Bullshit!’ (Lord preserve us –
he said it that way to the cops as well).
He still got off with community service
(always could dodge what was coming to him).

But we don’t own it any more –
the home have lost the families
they held; the yards fenced in; new doors;
and one or two ‘done up’. Who knows

the paths of all those countless Snells?
There’s none here now. The vacant block
has sprouted flats. A bright sign sells
them: ‘Home for Confused Elderly’.

From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001.

Playing

‘Where have you been, girl’?
‘Over the road, Mum.’
‘What do you do at the Fosters’ all day?
‘Nothing, Mum, nothing…

me and Sean Foster
played doctors and nurses
under the covers
up in the top bunk
under his red-and-blue
racing-car sheet-set

our thin, bony-shouldered
gangly foal-bodies

touching and smelling
peering and feeling
rubbing and humping…

nothing, Mum, nothing –
we were just playing.’

From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001