Sunday, 25 May 2014

Social Media Poems

In the Author's Note to his new collection, Brian Bartlett explains the technological origins of the prose form he coined.
One 21st-century aspect of Ringing Here & There is that its paragraphs were all posted as Facebook “updates.” Longer than haiku but shorter than sonnets, the entries shared during the first sixteen months were kept necessarily within the 420-character maximum of Facebook postings. I playfully enjoyed the challenge of the length limit, so when that limit was eliminated by the mysterious Facebook powers-that-be, I stubbornly stuck to a visually accustomed sense of the entries’ maximum size, without being confined by a fanatical adherence to 420 or fewer characters. Other than ironically declaring their independence from Facebook by rejecting its change of update lengths, from the beginning the paragraphs had rebelled against many other characteristics of the famous, infamous social-networking forum: they were all first handwritten and revised by pen, usually underwent further revisions after being posted, always included some element of the natural world, were rooted in the paragraph more than the fragment or the sentence, valued the mighty ampersand as a beautifully-shaped concentrator, & subsequently had other lives, such as appearances in literary journals & at public readings or conferences. I began to think of the handwritten drafts as their infancy & childhood; Facebook postings as their adolescence; & later appearances—including in this book—as their maturity. While some of the entries might be called prose poems, I’ve resisted that as a label for them all, considering other terms such as field reports, sketches, commentaries, tributes, laments, micro-narratives, quotations, & collages.

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