Sunday, April 18, 2010


So, what with Twitter tweets now going to the Library of Congress, as noted in my last post, Library of Tweets, it raises the question of whether writing via Twitter can be considered literature.  The answer, of course, will depend on how you define your terms, and truth be told, there have already been a number of experiments in creative writing going on via Twitter.  

One of my absolute favorites is a mystery story by Bob Blechman, a fellow media ecologist and mastermind behind the classic Model Media Ecologist video.   Bob has been writing a humorous mystery story tweet by tweet at RKBs_Twitstery, collecting the tweets on his blog here on blogspot, A Model Media Ecologist, and when it's complete, a print version will be published by NeoPoiesis Press.

Bob's work is great fun, you might say it's quite amusing, but the question lingers as to whether we can take Twitter seriously as a literary form, whether we can, perhaps, speak of Twitterature?  Well, maybe it's hard to take that neologism seriously, but what about the tweet itself?  Well, here's what Stephen Fry has to say on the matter:

At the risk of undermining my own position, I can't help but note that it seems that this question is being resolved through the agency of late night talk shows.  Hence, the following series, which does little for the prospect of taking Twitter seriously (but what's the point if we can't play around and have fun?):

And now this

And now this

Well, now we know what really happened to Conan O'Brien.  As for Shatner, well, he certainly has the the ability to dramatize, melodramatize, and overdramatize just about anything.  It could be a laundry list or grocery list, or a song like Elton John and Bernie Taupin's Rocket Man...

But I digress, albeit for the sake of a bit of science fiction and pop music curiosity.  So, getting back to the literary merits of Twitter, what Shatner illustrates in a humorous way are the merits of found poetry.  Here's another approach to using Twitter to provide the raw material for creating poetry:

Whether this method yields any results worthy of note I really can't say.  But I would not leave you without one really outstanding example of Twitter-based poetry, on as unlikely a subject as Detroit (just kidding, you meshugana Michiganers):

This 2009 video is entitled PoeTweet Twitter Poem from the streets of Detroit (I coined the term "poetweet" back in 2008, but I imagine that others have arrived at it naturally enough independently).  The description of this video reads:

Reborn on Street Corners: The Detroit Poetry Project began as a test project for the Scarab Club on Twitter. For one month, three highly regarded Detroit poets, M.L. Liebler international poet and Professor at Wayne State University, LaShaun Phoenix Moore, and Cassie Poe, both emerging Detroit talent, submitted entries on the Scarab Club Twitter page about their beloved city. 
This effort evolved into more than just a poem of collective words, it became a powerful voice for Detroit. This video includes music by Detroit jazz icon Faruq Z. Bey, and the arresting urban images by native Detroit artist S. Kay Young. M.L. Liebler recites the poem.

Twitter here was used as a medium for collaboration among three talented poets, and the results are quite impressive, made all the more so by the reading and the video.  And this only scratches the surface of the possibilities that Twitter opens up, the moral of the story being, keep on tweeting!



Anonymous said...

Hi Lance ...
Nice post; and don't forget the actual book, "Twitterature," published (with different subtitles) by Penguin/US in Dec 2009, Penguin/UK in Nov 2009, and just released in France (as La Twitterature) from Editions Saint-Simon, on April 1 2010. The work of two U Chicago students, it's quite funny and clever -- especially if, as they did, you've actually read the underlying books.

Lance Strate said...

I wasn't aware of that book, but of course that's quite different from actually writing for Twitter.

Anonymous said...

True, although some examples were this case it's as if each protagonist had a Twitter account, an iPhone, and a sense of humor -- so they were, by proxy, writing for Twitter. A finesse, but your point is taken.

Lance Strate said...

And in the past there have novels that used e-mail as a format, and it all goes back to the epistolary novel, or maybe Plato's dialogues. Which is not to dismiss all of this hybrid energy, to use McLuhan's term, it's all quite interesting, and I will check out that novel.