A Bittersweet Goodbye To A Month Of Poetic Tweets

Writer and poet Holly Bass joins host Michel Martin to wrap up Tell Me More's poetry series, Muses and Metaphor. In celebration of National Poetry Month, listeners and friends of the program were invited to tweet poems no longer than 140 characters, via Twitter.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And speaking of Twitter, it is the last day of April and sadly, this means that our Twitter poetry series, "Muses and Metaphor," ends today. As part of our celebration of National Poetry Month, we've been broadcasting poems of 140 characters or less that listeners have posted on Twitter. We've had hundreds of responses, and we've heard poetic tweets from a schoolteacher in Omaha, Nebraska; an Egyptian-American poet in Washington, D.C.; a producer/director in Sydney, Australia, of all places.

And when we started this series, we enlisted the help of poet Holly Bass. She is a writer and poet here in Washington, D.C. She's been our series curator, which is to say she is the one who's been going through the hundreds of submissions we received, to help us pick the ones to record and put on the air.

And Holly Bass joins us one last time for this year - for now - in our Washington, D.C., studios. Welcome back. I'm sad.

HOLLY BASS: I'm sad, too. It's been so fun. It's been great. Before we get into the final tweets, though, I have a little surprise for you.

MARTIN: I love surprises. Actually, I don't, but I'm sure I'll like this one.

BASS: You'll like this one. You'll like this one. So a little bird told me that TMM, TELL ME MORE, has been on the air for five years.

MARTIN: Yes.

BASS: It's your fifth anniversary, so I wrote a celebratory tweet...

MARTIN: Oh, wonderful.

BASS: ...for you.

MARTIN: I can't wait.

BASS: Yeah. So here it goes. Five wishes for your fourth. Happy Birthday sung Stevie style. Red velvet, "Soul Train" lines, electric poems, listeners whisper, TELL ME MORE.

MARTIN: I love it. You have everything in there. You've gotten all our key themes, except for shoes - you know, all the things we love. Red velvet cupcakes, everything in there. Thank you so much. That's so lovely...

BASS: You're very welcome.

MARTIN: ...what a lovely surprise. So let's talk about our poetry series. What did you think about the submissions we had this year?

BASS: It was just this outstanding outpouring; it was so amazing. And I would go on the feed, and I wanted to retweet a bunch of them but I thought, well, maybe after the - you know, the selections are made, because I didn't want people to feel like, oh, she's picking so-and-so over this - I don't know. But it was terrific. I just - yeah. We could go on for another month, and not run out of good poems.

MARTIN: That is certainly true. There were so many more than we could possibly have aired. I know that you particularly loved one of the tweets by one of our student poets.

BASS: I did. I thought Deisha Wilson(ph) of Hart Middle School - I thought her tweet was so lovely, and I keep going back to it. Her poem just sings to my heart.

MARTIN: All right. Well, let's play it again.

DEISHA WILSON: A is the darkness, E, you hear a trumpet. I, you and this unknown man or woman. U, you are afraid to move.

MARTIN: You know, I completely see your point.

BASS: I feel like it's got this...

MARTIN: Yeah.

BASS: ...jazz to it or this funk. I could listen to that over and over.

MARTIN: Well, tell us about another favorite.

BASS: Well, one of my absolute favorite tweets we did not get to air, because the poet had already recorded another poem - so it's from Susan Lyog(ph), who's from Chicago, Illinois, and she's a translator and interpreter of Tagalog, which is one of the languages from the Philippines. Shout-out to all my Pinoy friends. And so she also writes essays, creative nonfiction and, of course, poetry. So here's her tweet.

Shadows darken his once-rosebud lips. Eyes glisten like monsoon ponds. Today, son, don't let your hoodie hide your lovely curls.

MARTIN: Wow. Yes. I could see - yes - I could see why. I could see why. Would you tell me why?

BASS: Yeah. There's so much there. First of all, the resonance with Trayvon Martin and the hoodie but then also, you want to sort of still give him that kiss when he leaves the house, but also protect him. And it's all there in less than 140 characters. Just fantastic.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with writer and poet Holly Bass. All this month, she's been helping us pick the poetic tweets that you have sent us, to record and put on the air. Today, sadly, marks the final installment of our series for this year, and we will be playing one final, new tweet today. It comes from Tameka Mullens of Harlem, New York. She's 42 years old, and I understand you were hoping this tweet would end our series.

Let's listen first, and then you can tell us why you chose this tweet as our final one for the series this year. Here's the poem from Tameka Mullens.

TAMEKA MULLENS: Feed me. Put poetry on the plate. I'll dine with gratitude, savoring the taste, digesting every word, leaving no dimeter(ph) to waste.

MARTIN: We know that these are short, so let's play it one more time.

MULLENS: Feed me. Put poetry on the plate. I'll dine with gratitude, savoring the taste, digesting every word, leaving no dimeter to waste.

MARTIN: Well, Holly, so tell us what you liked about Tameka's tweet and tell us - what was that word in the - dimeter(ph) ?

BASS: Diameter.

MARTIN: Diameter?

BASS: Yeah. So I just thought that it kind of encapsulated everything that the series was about, and I like to say that poetry is delicious. I just thought that was lovely and the idea, also, of gratitude and digesting the words. And that's what it's really about.

MARTIN: Do you have some word of inspiration to send people off with if their poem wasn't chosen, but they had the experience of writing it?

BASS: Well, I just would want to say to all those poets that even if their poems didn't air on the radio, they were shared by many, many people. And I would see that people were re-tweeting poems and sort of making friends. And I'd say keep writing, and we could also tell people to keep writing poems and wishes of congratulations for TELL ME MORE's fifth anniversary by using the hash tag #TMMBirthday.

MARTIN: Well, thank you, Holly. I've been speaking with poet Holly Bass. She is a writer and poet. She's in the Washington, D.C., area. She was the curator of TELL ME MORE's "Muses and Metaphor" tweet poetry series once again.

Holly, thank you so much.

BASS: Oh, thank you, Michel. It's a pleasure.

MARTIN: And if your poetic tweets did not make it on the radio, they might be featured on NPR.org as part of our storify page. We've actually been featuring more of your poetic tweets online. Just go to NPR.org, and click on the Programs menu to find TELL ME MORE.

And this has been great, Holly. Thank you.

BASS: Thank you.

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