Digital Life

Twitter, Instant Messaging Put Poetry In Motion

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If Shakespeare were alive today, would'st he not Tweet? Or text or IM? How could he not? "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is my GF!" In fact, more and more poetry is being sent out over new technologies, which tend to encourage a special kind of language, if you know what we mean, LOL . Host Scott Simon speaks with Cyberfrequencies contributor Jackson Musker about poetry that is being composed using the likes of Twitter, Instant Messenger and other new technologies.


If Shakespeare were alive today, would'st he not tweet - or at least text or IM? How could he not? But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is my GF.

In fact, more and more poetry is being sent out over new technologies that tend to encourage special kind of language, if you know what I mean. LOL.

Jackson Musker is a contributor to the Cyberfrequencies blog. He joins us from the studios of member station KPCC in Pasadena.

Jackson, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. JACKSON MUSKER (Blogger): You're welcome. It's great to be here.

SIMON: What's driven poets - well, let me put it this way: Have poets migrated to the Web, or has the Web actually made some people poets?

Mr. MUSKER: I think generally what we're seeing is, people who are already poets are migrating to the Web and using it in entirely new ways that almost - changes the way that they think of poetry in the first place.

SIMON: Tell me, if you could, about a poet in Brooklyn named Tao Lin.

Mr. MUSKER: Sure. Yeah. Tao takes this whole Web poetry hybrid to another extreme where he IMs, he tweets, he Gchats, which is a kind of real time, back and forth chat within your email browser - Gmail.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. MUSKER: He composes poetry through all those media. I think for a younger generation, this is the future.

SIMON: Well, it's the way they've grown up communicating.

Mr. MUSKER: Exactly, yeah. And as these tweets get shrunk down to 140 characters, it doesn't mean that it's a thoughtless gesture to compose those 140 characters.

Just as it's not a thoughtless gesture to have a meaningful IM conversation with your best friend or with somebody across the world you've never met before.

SIMON: Can you give us a poem to savor, as we leave?

Mr. MUSKER: Sure, yes. This one is from Tao Lin. It's called "Some of My Happiest Moments in Life Occur on AOL Instant Messenger."

I will create a new category on my instant messenger buddy list. I will call it people I like who don't like me back. And I will move your screen name into that group, and I will invite you to my house and show you.

And you will say, If I didn't like you, why did I come over? And you will look at my face, and I will have an honest answer for your question. I will tell you that you came over to be polite.

And after a while, you'll go home and you won't call, and I won't either. And after a while, I won't like you anymore. And after a while, we'll forget each other. And after a while, you will be beautiful and alone inside your coffin. And I'll be cold and alone inside my coffin.

SIMON: Oh, I was hoping for a little something to pick up our spirits.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: You can't always guarantee that in the creative process, can you?

Mr. MUSKER: Right.

SIMON: Jackson, thanks very much.

Mr. MUSKER: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Jackson Musker, you can read his blog at He joined us from the downtown L.A. studios of member station KPCC.

This is NPR News.

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