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:

summer somewhere on lywtube

a fragment from a long poem by Danez Smith

a fragment from a long poem by Danez Smith

Summer, somewhere is a poem with a slow build like a quiet voice speaking up in the corner of an empty room.  Please check out the below link to this poetry video and give it time to build.  Towards the middle it blooms into something intimate and thoughtful and emotionally intelligent.

Pieces of this long poem, by Danez Smith, are currently featured on the lyw Youtube channel, including a 2nd poem entitled, it doesn’t feel like a time to write. 

I met Danez online during research for the 2015/2016 poetry campaign that launched the said Youtube channel.  He is a young, active and talented poet producing as well as performing poetry live and online.

a poem by Danez Smith

a poem by Danez Smith

Poetry freshly pressed, virtually and dynamically in video, and also a poet fresh and too young to need pressing: a combination I rarely find when I look for poetry.  But we’re going to change that, right?  I’m on the hunt for those young, or old (<–can’t be prejudice against my own kind), living, contemporary, and active poets who are interested in a growing, revitalized poetry market, one that isn’t niche, almost private or somebody’s sentimental hobby but one that is on the immediate pulse of our daily lives and modern zeitgeist.

I’ve copied below my favourite quotes as a sampler to the videos:

from the poem summer, somewhere by Danez Smith:

there, I knew how to swim but couldn’t.

there, men stood by shore & watched me blue.
there, I was a dead fish, the river’s prince.

there, I had a face & then I didn’t.
there, my mother cried over me

but I wasn’t there. I was here, by my own
water, singing a song I learned somewhere

south of somewhere worse. that was when
direction mattered. now, everywhere

I am is the center of everything.
I must be the lord of something.

what was I before? a boy? a son?
a warning? a myth? I whistled

now I’m the God of whistling.
I built my Olympia downstream.

from summer, somewhere by Danez Smith:

if you press your ear to the dirt
you can hear it hum, not like it’s filled

with beetles & other low gods
but like a mouth rot with gospel

& other glories. listen to the dirt
crescendo a boy back.

Link to poetry video of ‘summer, somewhere’ by Danez Smith:

 

Link to poetry video ‘It doesn’t feel like a time to write’ by Danez Smith:

© lyw  

Putting the HIIT in Poetry

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vintage boxing gloves image c/o: http://jenshede.com/2014/01/30/opening-lines/

Making poetry part of our daily exercise can be as compelling as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts.  Obviously, working different muscle groups but, I swear, the same burn can be there.  It can last a lot longer, too.

HIIT training workouts have become a popular fitness trend because they provide quick bursts of physical activity and adrenaline with optimal results in a short amount of time.

What are the terms that we hear with HIIT training?  Fire, heat, burn.  It hurts.  And people like that.  It seems an obvious answer to an urban lifestyle that can often numb the senses and one’s vitality.

In this modern society, the brain needs as much stimulation as the body to stay healthy. Diet and exercise help the brain but nothing like a daily dose of ‘huh?’  The most popular forms of poetry are sentimental, day calendar fillers and greeting card varieties. This might toast some bread, lightly, but it will not fire up your brain and may curdle your imagination.

Poetry isn’t easy on the brain.  The good stuff never is.  It’s meant to work the mind in the same way a good physical workout changes your muscles and organs in as little as a few lines of poetry.  Great creative literature compels the imagination to engage; it don’t work if you don’t.   Unfortunately, this kind of poetry is often met with, ‘I don’t get it — and never will.’  To that, please consider that we all can’t get to 60 burpees without starting at 10.

A great hit of poetry can stun the mind into a whole new place for at least a moment or two.  It’s the same feeling one can get when running outside when one has passed being sore and annoyed.

A great hit of poetry is a beautiful image or idea to follow you for the rest of the day like a secret meditation place in your mind, reminding you of something bigger than your daily grind.

And every once in a while, you will get the best result, which is, you will meet a poem, a workout, that changes you – for better, not worse; transformation over mutation.  (Hey, I admit, there is dark literature that grows nothing but fear and other nasty things – and often written with the best intentions.  However, that is for another blog.)

I’ve said it before that poems make great friends, the best ones, that when you find them, will stick with you for the rest of your conscious life; always ready for you if you just open them.

There is so much of this poetry out there.  I am often surprised at just how much great poetry has been written by our species.  The irony is that until these poems are found and read, they remain so quiet and dormant, when in fact they are bursting with vitality and our humanity.

This next poetry video, for the lyw YouTube channel, features clips to give the mind and imagination some challenging sport.  I tucked in an old poem called, A Windhover, into this video.  It’s extremely dramatic. When read on its rhythm, and with feeling, it is a thrilling ride.  I hope nobody comes down on me for rendering the whole poem.  It’s so enchanting that it feels like spell-casting. I didn’t want to leave anything out.  I think everybody should feel this poem.

Thanks for reading this blog.  I hope you enjoy this video:

© lyw