Saturday, May 2, 2015

Poetry conversations and tummeling

In Smarter Than You Think: How Techonology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, Clive Thompson mentions how a group of Internet writers and thinkers settled on a term for the "mix of persuasion, listening, and good hosting" employed to generate active online conversations. The term that the group came up with was "tummeling," derived from "tummler" -- a person who motivates people at a party to have fun and dance.

In some respects, I began thinking, poetry would definitely benefit from more deliberate tummeling. Poetry, or really any field, needs productive agitators to inspire increased lively participation. "Look behind any high-functioning discussion forum online," notes Thompson, "and you'll find someone doing tummeling."

Perhaps poet laureates should handle tummeling. They are, after all, charged  with responsibilities of celebrating and raising the profile of poetry and poets. But, then again, conversing about poetry is related to yet somewhat different from only celebrating poetry and poets.

Tummeling might mean paying attention to a variety of non-poetry topics that interest audiences and then find ways to include poetry in the conversation.  Apparently, good tummeling involves paying close attention to audience needs and interests.

If we are to get more diverse groups of people engaged in thinking, talking, and writing about poetry, we'll need to adopt and adapt some form of tummeling. 

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