[Humanist] 24.183 how sweetly tweet

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Jul 11 17:12:42 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 183.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                       (9)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.181 how sweetly tweet

  [2]   From:    "Richard Frank" <richard.frank at utoronto.ca>               (21)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.181 how sweetly tweet

  [3]   From:    Alan Liu <ayliu at english.ucsb.edu>                         (64)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.181 how sweetly tweet

        Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2010 07:50:07 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.181 how sweetly tweet
        In-Reply-To: <20100710062806.55AA651DF6 at woodward.joyent.us>

Yes, I agree.

I'd say the best precedent for Twitter posts would be the epigram or
the proverb.  Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, parts of
Hammarskjold's Markings, selections from Pensees...

Jim R

> With regards to the subject of tweeting's rhetorical powers (or lack of
> them), isn't the error we might make, and do, to regard it as a
> replacement for other kinds of writing rather than an augmentation of
> writing?

        Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2010 10:11:54 -0400
        From: "Richard Frank" <richard.frank at utoronto.ca>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.181 how sweetly tweet
        In-Reply-To: <20100710062806.55AA651DF6 at woodward.joyent.us>

Twitter is not meant to be the source of original thought (though some pithy
one-liners do exist). 

It is, I think, merely a pointer to these sources of information, whether
they be articles, blog postings, pictures of your vacation, family, friends,
events or whatever else may be contained at the end of the posted link.

For example on the day this was posted on Humanist I sent out this 139
character submission (and I didn't even need to use any url shortening

   "[Humanist] 24.176 how sweetly can you tweet?


Rick Frank 
President, Dufferin Research 

        Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2010 12:49:36 -0700
        From: Alan Liu <ayliu at english.ucsb.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.181 how sweetly tweet
        In-Reply-To: <20100710062806.55AA651DF6 at woodward.joyent.us>

- Poetics of Tweeting, Ancestral -

An interesting precedent for the "poetics of tweeting" that Willard calls
for is the poetry that Barry Spacks wrote in the 1990's in a form he
invented called "bumpers."  Bumper poems have to be exactly 84 characters
long, including punctuation. They were one of the early poetic forms to rely
on computational assistance in the creative act, since--as I recall the poet
telling me--one had to be writing in a word processor with a ready means of
character counting.  (Apparently, though, the form was originally invented
when the poet heard of a "a new product — magnetic letters for your car
bumper, 84 characters in the kit.")  I also recall from the poet that he and
other poets traded these back and forth by email.

You can see some examples of bumper poems by Spacks at the following links.
The first site, now available only in the Internet Archive, is co-authored
by Spacks and Lawrence E. Leone.  It explains the rules and history of the
form and adds some commentary.  The second site contains (to my mind) some
particularly beautiful examples.



(I note with surprise, not having seen the first of the above-mentioned
sites until now as I searched for examples, that Spacks quotes an informal
observation I made to him at the time that the form is characterized by "its
blend of concision, constraint, and therefore (paradoxically) also
invention."  I added that "the online publication possibilities are also
spectacular — inasmuch as this form is calculated to fit on a single screen
and will therefore free the imagination of designers as much as of poets."
Spacks and Leone themselves comment: "Written 84's seem to hover in
aesthetic effect between Chinese 4-line wisdom poems and the Japanese tanka
(a haiku plus a follow-up couplet producing a five line poem with
syllable-count 5,7,5,7,7). Closest to tanka in flavor, Bumpers (as you can
already see) have a tang all their own, and an ability to say just about
anything due to their casualness and flexibility."


On Fri, Jul 9, 2010 at 11:28 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

> My initial question, whether there is a poetics of tweeting, could be
> rephrased as the question of where we look for guidance, for
> instruction. To haiku, for example? To the poets not writing in Japanese
> who were influenced by it, e.g. (ironically) Robert Bly?
> Bly is an ironic example because he has levelled serious charges at our
> medium. See his Introduction to The Best American Poetry 1999, at
> www.robertbly.com/r_e_bap.html, on the cooling of language. Bly cites
> Sven Birkerts: "We are losing our grip, collectively, on the logic of
> complex utterance, on syntax; we are abandoning the rhythmic, poetic
> undercurrents of expression." Birkerts (with whom I once debated and,
> though academic decorum did not permit a vote to be taken, I was and
> remain certain he lost) is a champion of decline-and-fall,
> hell-in-a-handbasket. But is there any evidence *at all* that tweeting,
> e-mailing etc etc have muted us, cooled off our language, taken away
> while not at the same time giving us something else that is only
> different, not necessarily worse?
> Yours,
> WM

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