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Minute by Minute with #Micropoetry

posted: 9.8.09 by archived

by Nick Richardson

It’s easy to say that poetry is dead. So easy, in fact, that I’ve said as much before on Bedford Bits: “it’s easy […] to fall into the trap of thinking of poetry as frivolous. Or as unapproachable solipsism. Or both. Largely irrelevant, in any case.” But, like a poet, I wonder about Death (capital “D”).

Is Poetry in a coffin, unsold and unread (or worse: forcibly, joylessly read)… or has it been reconstituted, its component parts unknowingly incorporated –- immanent -– into the subconsciously literary, the reflective and minutely observant; the people with Things to Say. That is, into Poets (capital “P”), both self-identified and otherwise. Take Twitter:

A quick check of Twitter (which is considered – like poetry – to be largely irrelevant) reveals a quickening pulse within the poetic corpse. Not villanelles or catalectics, but something shorter: “twaiku” — twittered haiku — and casually shared micropoetics.

Some might say this is mostly empty verbiage. They say it’s better to leave poetry to the professionals. But again, this is where our poetic problem originated. Twaiku may not be canon –- although, I am Twitter friends with Shakespeare –- but Poetry is bubbling up, tweet by tweet, into contemporary pop-consciousness.

This minute, regardless of whether anyone thinks it’s an essentially historical or privileged art form, poetry is being created and celebrated, shared and reposted and thrown away. Yoko Ono is making international news by judging Twitter poetry competitions (the prize: free admission to poetry events!); Twitter micropoetry is being codified, at least popularly on Wikipedia, as a legitimate “genre of poetic verse”; and we may even have our first serious Twitter poetry book, Tweet, Tweet: a mysticotelegraphic fistbump panegyric to the american open road odyssey (Mark Fullmer, 2009).

This forthcoming film/poetry collection, teased in the below book trailer, documents — minute by micropoetic minute — Fullmer’s “road trip from Brea to Flagstaff to Albuquerque to Denver to Provo to Ferdley to Big Sur and back” — and definitely doesn’t look anything like your grandmother’s mouldering book of Victorian twaiku.

Tweet, Tweet, by Mark Fullmer (Trailer):

So, is Poetry dead? Of course not — that’s just something we say. Poets are, as previously discussed in Why So Serious?: Are Happy Poems Taboo, driven by mortality and marginalization.

And have we really come from The Odyssey to “The Wasteland” to this? Yes and no — like almost everything else, you can find poetry alive and thriving online, but that’s just the popular fringe. Some will take solace in this explosion of poetic creation, others can always look to the traditional sources, which chug on regardless.


1. Take a look at Twitter searches for #micropoetry and #twaiku. What can be said about these short poems (140 characters maximum) as a whole? Do you think they work as poetry (why or why not)?

2. Given what you’ve noticed in the above exercise, try your hand at writing Twitter-style micropoetry. If you don’t have a Twitter account, just try to keep these short-bursts under 140 characters long. Of course, part of the vitality and fun of tweeted poetry is the social interaction, so — if you feel comfortable — try posting some of your micropoetry on Twitter. Be sure to end your post with a hash tag (#micropoetry or #twaiku).

Nick Richardson is an associate editor at Bedford/St.Martin’s. He holds an MA in Literary and Cultural Theory from Boston College and has published three books (two poetry, one prose)…exhibiting what poet Andrei Codrescu has called “a fresh sort of daring in the overstrained broth of contemporary American poetry.” He is also the publisher of A Mutual Respect Books and Music, an underground chapbook press operating out of Brooklyn, NY.

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One Response to “Minute by Minute with #Micropoetry”

  1. J0hn C0rtland Says:

    Looks like you’re not the only one talking about this: