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:

O Muse!

This week’s video and blog is celebrating classic epic-style poetry.  Though this is not the easiest type of poetry for the modern reader, this video attempts to prove that sometimes it’s fun to get ‘lost in the translation’ be that from the ancient languages that much of this poetry comes from or due to the cultural and literary differences between that long, long time ago and our current day.

Slide1

stone sculpture by Unknown – Jastrow (2007) *

I suspect that the term, ‘lost in translation’, must have been born from the study of our ancient poets because the richness and beauty of their epic poems is often dependent on the strength of the translations.

I have found when reading some translations of the Roman poet, Virgil, that often I am compelled to shout, ‘it doesn’t always have to rhyme!’  However, I recognize that my tastes are subjective and influenced by my own culture and society.  Much of the epic poetry known to the Western world is translated into Old English.  It was as different a time and place, to me, as was ancient Greece and Rome.  It is natural that I prefer the more direct and modern translations of our classical, epic-style poetry by the great American poet, Robert Fitzgerald.

Slide2

– illustration ‘Great American Culture’ by Pui Yan Fong*

Another impediment to epic poetry for the modern reader (who is like me) is that these publications often resemble ancient Greek or Roman columns; blocks and blocks of text, text and more text.  For the TV babies out there, raised to have short attention spans, the mere sight of these poems is daunting.  These stony blocks of classical verse are a huge contrast to the fluid lines and generous use of airy space found in most modern free verse poetry.  For this reason, it is essential for lovers of these classic poems to bring us their favourite passages in bite-size pieces because, after all these centuries, hidden deeply within these columns of text, are lines of poetry that have not lost a drop of their original succulence; have not withered any of their heroic richness; and speak on themes that are as relevant to our current day.

It was the film, ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ that re-introduced to me Homer’s epic poem, ‘The Odyssey,’ by providing a small quote in the beginning of the film.  I hadn’t read it since University and back then, it did feel like a chore.  So it took the Coen brothers to revive for me this quintessential quote for the human soul’s trials through this earthly life.

“O Muse! Sing in me, and through me tell the story

Of that man skilled in all the ways of contending,

A wanderer, harried for years on end …”

*The translation appears to be a slightly tweaked version of Fitzgerald’s translation.

I should also note that epic poetry is an international genre. There have been epic poems written in many different cultures and languages. Unfortunately, I’m limited by what is available to the English language, and online.

After completing the research for this poetry video, I have concluded that our master epics need a fresh translation with every generation.  The alternative solution would be for a new Homer or Dante to emerge and write a new ‘Odyssey’ or ‘Divine Comedy.’  However, it is hard to imagine a world of literature without these specific pieces somewhere inside despite having been written so long ago.

I hope you enjoy this next video installment to our poetry campaign on YouTube.  This video will introduce to you some bite-size pieces of poetry from Ovid, Homer, Dante, Virgil, and (my favourite poet) Anonymous:

(Aug 6, 2016 – I’ve tweaked this video twice now to improve flow and sound quality. Hard to tell if it actually does sound better because I believe WIN 10 has messed up my audio!  Everything sounds ‘tinny’.)

 

© lyw

* stone sculpture by Unknown – Jastrow (2007), CC BY 2.5, c/o: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2598931

* Great American Culture – illustration by Pui Yan Fong c/o: http://www.puiyanfong.com/thesis.html