THE BIRDS AND BEES DO IT: THE POETICS OF TWEET, or BULLETINS FROM IMMORTALITY

This is my letter to the world who never wrote to me–

That’s Emily Dickinson, posting from her Amherst bedroom, and this is your host of post, Professor Barbara Mossberg, welcoming you to The Poetry Slow Down. We’re featuring bloggers and tweetsters Walt Whitman, Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver, Jim Heynas, William Stafford, Vijay Seshadri , Chu Hsi, Tao Ching, Tim Seibles, Eleni Sikélianòs

. . .

Now what do you mean by this, Dr. B, with all due respect? You aren’t talking about the aesthetics of the new media, are you, relating it to the ancient practice of poetry? Hey now: Poetry Slow Down, and your newfangled smartiness, we–ll, maybe it’s because I’ve been with my daughter before she headed back to college, or because this coming week I am back in the classroom with 18 year olds in First Year Seminar, and my ingenious purple ones, so internet savvy, Integrated Studies Special Majors rocking our world, and so I’m in this new world of internet tweet and twitter and flicker and Facebook and SMS postings—a metaphoric term for what people say on the internet, as in posting a message on a wall, that’s the phrase, so, yes, our program today reflects on the current practice and devotion to be-ing in public, going public, in the act of tweeting, in what is called twitter, and how it may in fact, the more I understand it, if I understand it, be the same as, poetry has ever been.

No way! Way!

Oh Dr. B, not you, who champion Homer and Horace and old-school classic learning and books and libraries and handwritten letters, who try to bring us back to the Grove! Et tu, Dr. B? Well, ah, I confess the first book I am assigning first year students is The Odyssey, but also, Chaos: Making the New Science, emergence theories of how we see our complex happening world around us, making order out of chaos . . . as poetry always has done—I see the connections between sitting on the sand, only sky and tree and hand for a text to figure things out, and what we today call twitter or tweet or posting or messaging or texting—reading and writing texts to collectively decipher our mysterious momentous world and lives.  This profusion of new media which is destabilizing our publishing and experience with books and how we read: maybe the flutter about twitter is how people once felt about clay and leaves as the new technology for telling our stories, from the chanting voice of the epic and lyric poets . . . Do you blog? Do you read blogs? Well, Poetry Slow Down, I realize I have been reading Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, which he added to and revised his whole life, as one long blog; we can look at poetry whether ancient or written today, as a blog—or tweet—a lens that illuminates the core of poetry’s role in our lives.

In instant messaging, our communications get shorter and shorter—faster and faster—as if we have so little TIME to say and hear, but yet long to cry out, to know, what’s up with you? It may be a loneliness, a hunger, our ultimate humanity, to sing our song, to be known– perhaps this is what poetry in its core is, but slowed down to wrestle with how to say, to stop for an insight, of how the world appears and organizes itself to our brains just then. Through the lens of twitter and tweet I see our poets posting all along, the original posters, twitsters . . . So let’s get started, what do you say, this August day? It all begins actually with sharing with you what I was doing when I was playing hookey from our live show, carousing in the court of the queen of tweet, Emily Dickinson, at Amherst College at the Emily Dickinson International Society Annual Meeting, and Board of Directors meeting, and teaching two Master Classes on “I’m Nobody.” We’ll talk about Emily Dickinson’s tweets, her good days and bad days, hard nights and wild nights, joys and pains, observations on the weather, and other “Bulletins from Immortality.”

We’ll talk about good news in the news, news we need, news we heed, news feeds, and “this just in” news of restoration and resurrection and reverence of the wild world, including the story of the Highway 101 Klamath River whale visitation and the role of twitter and Facebook newsfeeds as we try to figure it out. We hear this story through the lens of poets engaging imaginatively with whales, including Mary Oliver and Gary Snyder. We hear news feeds on earth watch from William Stafford and Jim Heynas and Vijay Seshadri, and bulletins about our hands from Tim Seibles, and Walt Whitman’s conviction he is the king of tweet. It’s all old school, poetry at full tilt, when we slow down and let each other know what it is like for each of us to be conscious here on earth.

Write me at bmossberg@csumb.edu, or “message” me on Facebook.

Yours sincerely, Dr. B

© Barbara Mossberg 2011

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