Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Elizabeth Alexander's Teeny Tiny Twitter Poems

Since January 1, Elizabeth Alexander has been involved in what she refers to as the "Twitter Poem Project," where she writes short poems within the twitter 140-character format. Alexander actually wrote her first twitter poem several months before officially starting a twitter account. The New York Times had made requests from Alexander and poets Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, and Claudia Rankine to compose poems while adhering to twitter's character restrictions.

[Related: Notes on Why Elizabeth Alexander's Presence on Twitter Matters]

Alexander's contribution, "Teeny tiny poem," read as follows: "Teeny tiny poem/just enuf 2hold/1 xllent big word/Impluvium/open-eyed courtyrd/collectng rain/as all poems do/ skylife, open/birds do:/ tweet."

Alexander's tweet poem was the only one among the four contributions to the Times to appear in two lines, thus the only one that was in fact twitter-ready. The use of a number-word combination like "2hold" and the condensed spelling of "xllent" for "excellent" and "courtyrd" for "courtyard" were uncommon approaches for Alexander, at least in the context of her previously published poetry.

Moving forward with the poems she has published on twitter so far, she has chosen, for the most part, to provide standard spellings of words, opting not to regularly use abbreviations associated with texting.

In her twitter poem from January 25, she writes about meeting the doctor who performed her father's heart surgery: "I shake the hand that reached inside/my father’s chest and fixed his heart/How cool the hand, how strange/it does not hold the beating heart." In a twitter poem from February 19, she wrote "Bacon on buttered toast/small perfection, salty-sweet/cream and bread and Oh! pigmeat!/that which today i love most."

Alexander's teeny tiny twitter poems provide an alternative or perhaps extension to the work of a notable poet. She is clearly charting new ground in the realm of African American literature with the convergence of poetry and social media.

Elizabeth Alexander Week

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