the Lit Twit: a poetry campaign on Twitter

So ima gonna tweet once a weekday for a month; see if I can’t blow out or up a decent tune about poetry.

To date, I have only used Twitter as a supplementary tool to my blog.  But no longer!  The bird will take centre-stage on September 4, marking the beginning of a little poetry campaign through Twitter.  I’ve renamed my Twitter account to the Lit Twit in honour of the campaign.  During the Lit Twit campaign, I will tweet a couple lines of poetry (classical, contemporary and obscure), ending each week with the persistent question: Why do We Read / Write Poetry?  A question that is open to anybody’s answer.

Let’s face it, Twitter is pretty severe for writers.  WORDY writers, if that’s what you want to call me.  140 character limit?  Why bother?  Was my common thought.

But you know what I’ve learned to love about this limitation?  I can amplify a piece of poetry that would not have nearly the same volume within the body of a larger whole.  In fact, an isolated line of poetry in the frame of a tweet becomes almost like a visual message.

Poems tend to literally look a lot alike – a column with the right side in a waving line if you don’t justify your text.  The longer and denser the poem, the more it looks like nothing more than a big column, never mind the text.  And quite honestly, since I have a generational sickness of a short attention span, I am less inclined to dig in when poetry looks like that.

I chipped off a piece of a big marble column and presented that instead of the whole column it would certainly have a more unique shape and the size would be less daunting.  That piece’s texture and particular veins might become more striking by this isolation.  A small piece of poetry can often feel very big.

And it’s not like a haiku.  I’ve cut a piece of poetry out of a larger whole.   The places where I cut enhance the viewer/reader experience, especially if you stop to imagine what the rest of the column must have looked like; what the rest of the poem might have been saying.

All the living and at large poets who have granted me permission to recreate their poetry on Youtube have also granted permission to quote their work during this campaign.  George Elliott Clarke, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada, included.  We affectionately tweet him as GEC.  I want to publicly thank him again for being so supportive.  And the pieces that I struck from his larger poems, are really going to sing as tweets.

During this campaign, I’m also going to share my love for some masterful poets that until a few years ago were unknown to me.

Do you know Adunis?  Aka Alī Aḥmad Saʿīd ‘Isbar?  Can’t believe I stumbled upon one of his poems by accident a couple of years ago and he could have easily gone unnoticed my whole life.  Today, I am a large and growing fan.  It amazes me how his work can be both simple and complex at the same time.  His poetry feels alive and moving.  Flows like thoughts from my own head but shares, clearly, somebody else’s experience.

And Mr. Gerard Manley Hopkins?  Spellbinder. That’s what I call him.  Read Windhover loud and out loud and, hopefully, you get something of what I did from that poem.  Can’t believe I’d never read his work until a few years ago as well.

So, some classical, some ‘obscure’ (to me anyway), some contemporary and some GEC all in a month of poetweeting.

If you are into Twitter and poetry, or think you could be, please find this campaign at #LillianYWong (aka the Lit Twit) starting September 4!

© lyw

light bulb image c/o Alvaro Serrano at Unsplash.com

Links to the works of some of our campaign’s featured poets:

Warsan Shire: the Reads of a Modern, Living Poet

Warsan Shire is a great example of a modern poet who inspires her readers to the point where they engage.  At risk of infringing on copyright laws, her fans have produced their own Youtube videos, blogs and websites to honour her work.  She has inspired her readers to be active and passionate about poetry.

As a result, Warsan Shire has achieved exactly what I aspire towards as a poet.  She has achieved what I think poetry needs in its readership: active engagement — not just for our beloved ‘dead poets’ societies’ but also our living ones; the poets of this era and generation.

Warsan Shire’s popularity on YouTube alone has garnered over 100K views from these independent videos.  Her poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’ has generated so many different interpretations by other artists that it inspires me to think: Wouldn’t it be great, if all great poems, from living poets, were celebrated in such an unabashed way — giving pop music videos a real run for their money?  And suddenly the reader becomes more involved in judging and valuing what today’s poetry market will and should be.

However, we should note that while her readers are showing love, they aren’t obtaining proper copyright permissions; a sensitive issue with the level of share on the Internet. We all need to hesitate when at risk of infringing on another artist’s intellectual property, no matter how good the intentions are. These laws are in place to protect the work of the artists as well as the publishing industry.

However, I have met lots of obstacles in producing the videos for the current poetry campaign on the lyw Youtube channel.  I, too, have worried a few times if I was going too far in the liberties I was taking to show my appreciation for some poets and poetry. Copyright permissions are hard to get.  Contact information for the poets or the publishers is hard to get, as well.   I have done my best to adhere to the ‘fair use‘ concept used in copyright law and persisted because I believe poetry would have more love and reads, if it were more accessible, in a contemporary way.

I have a small story to illustrate a startling point.  In trying to find choice material for this blog’s poetry appreciation campaign, I started digging for poems from my own dusty library.  My library is a collection that comprises four years as an English Literature major, one year working in a bookstore, which gave me a huge discount on all books, and the rest found while wandering through used and new bookstores looking for random ideas to inspire me in any which way.  In this collection I found an anthology of ‘world contemporary poems’.  I must have bought it about 20 years ago and most likely only read about 30% of it.  Just one month ago, while producing the video ‘… a small piece of poetry can sometimes march’, I found the most amazing poet in this book  –  an amazing poet lying dormant and unknown in my own library all this time because he was buried in a 600 page anthology.  Apparently, he is also described as the greatest living poet of the Arab world.  I had no idea!  Again, he was buried in a 600 page anthology.  I was young when I bought that book.  I skimmed!  How easy it is to miss the extraordinary!

And when I discovered that his poems, ‘Song for A Man in the Dark’ and ‘Elegy for the Time at Hand’ weren’t copied all over the Internet like all my other English favourites, I just wanted to shout his poems to the world.  Adunis.  His name is Adunis, aka Adonis or Ali Ahmad Said Esber.  He’s around eighty years old now.  He has no lack of controversy posted about him online but too few poems.

I wish I could show you all the great poems in my library that are not being actively celebrated online.  I would love a great big, ‘show and tell’, online because there are too many poets lost in my library.  I think poetry needs readers to be encouraged to be active fans. I love the passion of Warsan Shire’s fans.  It gives me hope for the future of poetry.  But there is that fine line:  How do we protect the artists and the artist’s industry while keeping our reads bright and burning?   Something to think about.

Till then, this week’s poetry appreciation video(s) are links to two videos produced for Warsan Shire on Youtube by other artists.  Please enjoy this amazing poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’:

written by lyw