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Poet Barbara Pelman would rather talk in person rather than tweet, but the former high school teacher does feel Twitter can have a positive impact on her art form.
"Any way that poetry can be more accessible (but not trivialized) to the general public, the better," Pelman, an award-winning poet and university lecturer, told the ParetoLogic newsletter. "Poetry on buses and subways, poetry in doctor's offices, poetry in schools, poetry slams, poetry on YouTube--all great! So of course, why not Twitter?"
Over the years Pelman, a non-tweeter based in ParetoLogic's hometown of Victoria, B.C., has been active in Random Acts of Poetry. This Canada-wide event involves a day where poets across the country read works to the public and even give away books. Lately many acts of poetry – especially in the haiku form – have been occurring online.
After Oracle acquired his Sun Microsystems, CEO Jonathan Schwartz announced his resignation via this Twitter haiku:
"Financial crisis / Stalled too many customers/ CEO no more."
While Twitter's limit of only 140 characters per tweet might seem limiting to some, it does work well for haiku. The Japanese poetry form generally consists of three lines of five, seven and five morae (a kind of a short syllable). Tim Lilburn, University of Victoria professor and author of the Governor General’s Award poetry collection "Kill-Site," told the newsletter: "poetry sometimes thrives with constraint."
It certainly seems to be doing well on Twitter. Late show host Jimmy Kimmel held a contest for the best haiku tweet about the final episode of the TV show Lost. The Jewish Funds for Justice asked supporters, including comedienne Sarah Silverman, to protest comments made by conservative media host Glenn Beck by bombarding his Twitter account with haiku. There are a variety of dedicated haiku tweeters, including on specific subjects like stock car racing (@NASCARHaiku), cats (@cat_haiku), and zombies (@haikuofthedead).
Atlanta poet, novelist, journalist and playwright Collin Kelley believes Twitter, blogs and other social media can have a positive impact on poetry. He told the ParetoLogic newsletter:
"Poetry has been relegated to the farthest corner of literature, especially in America, so if haiku or lines of poetry disseminated over a giant network of followers helps reignite interest in the art form, then I encourage all poets to join in."
In 2009, the news blog Mashable.com produced a list of 100 writers people should follow on Twitter. Kelley was shocked that he did not see a poet on that list. This slight prompted him to publish on his blog a list of poets on Twitter. He was later asked by OCHO literary magazine to guest-edit an issue focusing on poets on Twitter. On his own Twitter account, @CollinKelley, he now has more than 1,760 followers.
Kelley believes Twitter can be a publishing spot for poetry forms other than haiku. He has posted lines of poetry and links to poems. While Kelley has not posted an entire poem, he noted others have – tweeting individual lines that read together make an entire poem. For example, in the issue of OCHO he guest-edited, Kelley included a sonnet JS van Buskirk tweeted.
As technology advances and generations become more plugged into the online world, Kelley sees how people share poetry (and other literature) changing dramatically.
"One day, there will probably be a chip implanted on our body that can instantly connect us to social media networks, there will be devices that download books directly into our brains. It sounds like science fiction now, but then so did iPads and smartphones 20 years ago."
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