About five weeks ago I stared thinking about the new things I've been learning in this class and deciding on how I would use Twitter to do some kind of online poem. I really liked Witch Court Reporter and wanted to do something similar but not automated or ongoing. There was just something about Twitter that seemed poem like to me, probably the vertical length and straight left edge. Modernist and contemporary poems also include a lot of parataxis and non sequitur and Twitter does this so naturally.
So I'm recreating my creative process here.
The Originating Idea
I had the vague idea that I wanted to do something commenting on vague, alarmist language in political discourse, how flat the components of this language are and how it drains the power of the words being so over used, which is all very scary because the intent of this language is to be ringing alarm bells.
I also knew I wanted somehow to look back to see how we got here with alarmist language and why it isn't working effectively, which led me to think about Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death which blew my mind when I read it two years ago. The book went all the way back to the telegraph and early photography up through 1980s television news (and you can see all its predictions playing out now in internet culture).
My early research took the form of a mind map. I wish I had the original piece of paper because it looked like tracks or lists of the following:
- Internet history
- Early Internet memes
- Early media history (telegraphs, photos)
- Internet trolls (which came from the research above). This was a handy element to the eventual poem because it added the element of conflict.
- This element of trolling led me to research another layer, past poets who might conceivably have trolled each other had they the resource of an internet. I had been reading and watching some movies about T.S. Eliot and Hart Crane and also reading an essay by Howard Nemerov pitting William Blake and William Wordsworth against each other so those were the four poets I chose and I had to locate indicative poems and read those for possible argumentative quotes. While I was doing that I located some really juicy stuff that could be read to predict our modern narcissistic social media tendencies. Research score!
It's a good place to note that most of this stuff I was investigating anyway and it just all coalesced into this collage of a poem, the tone of which ended up being heavily influenced the gloom and doom of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," even though I've never liked that poem at all so you could say I'm being ghostly trolled by T.S. Eliot in this poem.
Building the Layers
My research didn't stop there. Layers were added as I researched online (like associating hoodies with the vague language statements). Adding images to statements changes their tone. I had to be cognizant of that.
I also knew the Twitter platform required that the poem be visual so I researched possible posts in the following areas:
- quotes to retweet
- comment digressions
I also started thinking about how these various memes and media could be read figuratively in the poem. Some work as filler; some are more meaningful.
Ordering the Poem
Then I took all that mishmash and typed it up. I ordered the poem to spread out all the elements and tried to build some tension toward the end. One of the early memes I discovered in research was the Bitterroot National Fire photograph (an early popular photo on the internet) and that got me on the track of the gradually more alarmist fire-related posts at the end of the poem.
With all the material spread out, I could see I would need 19 days to pull it off. It took me almost a full day to set up all the accounts and test the platform. Not fun.
After the problems setting up the whole Twitter poem universe, I tried to give myself time every day to problem solve with the technology of commenting and discovering how those would display and also deploying the conversations. This meant I tried not to over-schedule the work for each day.
I had to do the best I could editing before posts were added because I couldn't go back and edit them later. That would screw up the deployment performance. This caused (and still causes) anxiety for me.
I didn't have an archive plan until day one of deployment when I realized how vulnerable a live Twitter poem would be.