Tell Me More Launches New Series Of Tweet Poems

April is National Poetry Month and Tell Me More is celebrating with a series of poems with a techie twist. The poems to be featured in the series, entitled Muses and Metaphor, will be "tweets" from listeners. That means, messages no longer than 140 characters, exchanged via Twitter. Washington, DC based poet Holly Bass, who will be helping to select listeners' tweets for the program, gives advice on how to write a good tweet poem.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally, we end today with a look ahead to tomorrow, April 1st, the beginning of National Poetry Month. And sure, we could dive into classic sonnets of William Shakespeare, the rhymes of Nikki Giovanni, the legendary Persian poems of Rumi, or the love verses of Pablo Neruda. But on this program we decided to celebrate National Poetry Month by featuring the poetry of our listeners with a modern twist.

These poems will be tweets. Those are the messages, 140 characters or less, that are exchanged via Twitter. It's all part of our series that we are calling Muses and Metaphor, which combines two of our passions: poetry and social media.

And to help us along, we have invited poet Holly Bass. She is a writer, a performer and the poet in residence for Busboys and Poets restaurants here in Washington, D.C. She'll also be TELL ME MORE's curator, helping to choose some of our favorite tweets to feature on the program. And Holly Bass is with us now in our Washington, D.C. studios.

Welcome.

Ms. HOLLY BASS (Writer): Thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you so much for joining us in 140 characters or less.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Now you are actually something of a tweet expert. You actually run a Twitter-writing workshop.

Ms. BASS: Yes. It was something I wanted to try last summer to actually challenge myself, because I feel like I'm kind of a late adopter. And I think a lot of writers, you know, we want paper books. We don't want these mechanized devices. We want long poems. You know, we don't want Twitter. But I said, you know, I don't want to be that person who gets trapped in the past, so I tried it. It was really fantastic. I would send out prompts via Twitter and then the participants would write their poems back and we would re-tweet them.

MARTIN: Well, what makes a good tweet?

Ms. BASS: Poetry is all about being concise, first of all. It's all about distilling language and life down to its essence. So when you are doing that with 140 characters, with technology, what you want to do is pick really unique words. What you want to do is also really think about the five senses. Maybe convey a sound. Maybe convey a scent or a taste, so that it becomes really rich and layered.

MARTIN: Is there a particular challenge that you have found as a poet who tweets?

Ms. BASS: I think this thing that people fall into that I call Yoda poetry, where they just change the syntax of something really normal and prosaic and suddenly that makes it quote/unquote "poetic." So: happy I am today. No. I'm sorry. That's not OK. You can still say I am happy. It's not about being odd or unusual with the syntax. It's really about intensifying that language.

MARTIN: Well, now I'm a little scared. But I'm going to offer up our little offerings to you but I'm sure you'll be kind and gentle. The first is from WEEKEND EDITION Saturday host Scott Simon.

SCOTT SIMON: Hi, Michel. Here is my tweet. It's kind of an homage to Dorothy Parker. Analysis is a snore. Talk is fleeting. Gossip is boring. You might as well tweet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BASS: I love it. I love it.

MARTIN: That's cute.

Ms. BASS: It's pithy. It's funny. You know, it's that Dorothy Parker droll. Might as well live, might as well tweet. That's fantastic. He's always great though, right?

MARTIN: All right. Now here's a member of own team, Sanaz Meshkinpour. Here it is.

SANAZ MESHKINPOUR: First we talked about other people - Las Cruces, 20 miles. Later we talked about ourselves - Austin, closing in. At last, New Orleans -silently.

Ms. BASS: It's really lovely. What you get is a sense of movement and progression, so they're going from city to city. Lovely.

MARTIN: OK. Here's another one from the TELL ME MORE family, Alicia Montgomery.

ALICIA MONTGOMERY: Motherhood tests every skill that I was told smart girls didn't need. I fail a little every day. But every day I hope a little less.

Ms. BASS: Yeah. That's really poignant and wonderful. I love how it's - it's about something that we can all relate to, or many of us can relate to parenting. And even the idea of failing at something you're supposed to be good at. You know, you're smart. You went to school. You're just supposed to be good at everything and then here's this life challenge that really throws you for a loop, and so I love that sort of democratic and honesty. There's a lot of honesty there. Fantastic.

MARTIN: OK, Holly, put you on the spot.

Ms. BASS: All right. Here we go. Can a wheel contain a poem? Could a word will itself into being where we begin. An O, unformed, sound on the cusp of existence.

MARTIN: Very nice. Well, what was your inspiration?

Ms. BASS: I was just thinking about how we keep creativity flowing continuously. So it's rather abstract, but really just that pressure of when you got to do something, when you got to produce how do you pull out that essence and make it happen?

MARTIN: So now we've put ourselves out there, so now our listeners can do likewise. So Holly what...

Ms. BASS: Don't be afraid.

MARTIN: Don't be afraid. What qualities will you be looking for?

Ms. BASS: I'm going to be looking for specificity of language. I'm going to be looking for imagery and just something that maybe takes me out of my world and puts me into the world of the poem.

MARTIN: Holly Bass is a poet and she will be curating TELL ME MORE's Muses and Metaphor tweet poetry series that we'll be running throughout the month of April, which is National Poetry Month. And she was kind enough to join us here in our Washington, D.C. studios.

Holly, thank you.

Ms. BASS: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And you can learn more about the series by checking out our website. Just go to the Program page at npr.org and select TELL ME MORE.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. And remember to tell us more, you can always go to npr.org and find us under the Programs tab. You can also follow us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE/NPR.

I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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