Poetweeting

Nowadays, in a world where the phrase ‘nowadays’ is rarely used, everything is quick and digital. Kids today want everything instantly and online. And Twitter is their (our) Mecca. Everything on Twitter is fast. If a notable human dies, it will be on Twitter before any news site, let alone a newspaper. Communication? Forget e-mail. When I wanna hit up Kathy Najimy, I tweet at her.

But what about art? Poetry? Can they exist in this bizarre Tworld?

Tw-yes.

I recently stumbled upon a couple of very cool Twitter poetry/art projects. Digging into these led me to even more, but I’ll focus on my two favorites: @everyword and @haikuD2.

@Everyword began about seven years ago, during the formative years of Twitter. Run by Adam Parrish, a software architect based out of New York, @everyword has, true to it’s name, been tweeting every word in the English language. It has been an ongoing project since 2007. As I am writing this article, @everyword is about halfway through S. In fact, today it tweeted its 89,000th word.

Parrish said that “there’s a long history in art of similar iterative, procedural works,” and he drew some inspiration from John F. Simon’s “Every Icon” project.

@Everyword has garnered a very large following over the years, and now has over 44,000 followers. Several similar projects have spun-off of @everyword from other artists, such as @defineeveryword, which, well, defines each word that @everyword tweets. There are also foreign cousins of @everyword, such as @iederwoord, the Dutch iteration.

Each tweet is spaced exactly 30 minutes apart, and some followers of @everyword have started something of a game: see if you can spot three (or even four) @everyword posts in succession of one another. That would mean that nobody else in your feed tweeted during that timespan. Harking back to the fast-paced nature of society today, finding a gap in tweetage can be a difficult task.

When I brought up this game to Parrish, he said that it was an interesting concept. “I’ve noticed my feed works the same way. There’s a time-keeping aspect to @everyword that definitely was not something that I thought about or intended at the outset of the project.”

@Everyword still has about 20,000 words left to tweet, and the project will conclude sometime around June, 2014.

The other very cool Twitter art project I’ve started following is @HaikuD2. Started by John Burger, @HaikuD2 prowls Twitter looking for tweets that just happen to be 17 syllables- haiku length.

“I’ve always been interested in the notion of “found art”, the idea that you can designate an everyday object or collection of objects as art,” Burger said. “I’ve done a lot of work in language processing with computers, and wanted to do something fun with Twitter because it’s this fantastic resource of real language by everyday people. I was inspired by the Twitter poetry bot Pentametron but you can only appreciate its sonnets by seeing multiple tweets. I wanted something more self-contained, and haikus seemed like a good choice.”

@HaikuD2 is an automatic bot, but Burger has trained it to recognize good haikus (and bad ones). It uses an algorithm called “logistic regression,” and although Burger occasionally tweaks the program, and deletes “accidentally offensive” tweets, @HaikiD2 has literally taken on a life of its own.

The coolest part about @HaikuD2 is that each tweet is written by a different person. Once @HaikuD2 reformats the tweet into haiku form (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables), a signature is added at the end of the tweet, linking it to the original writer.

“[M]any of them reply, almost always positively.” Burger said. “Perhaps unsurprisingly, the phrase “I’m a poet and I didn’t know it” comes up a lot.”

Both of these projects are examples of 2013 art and poetry. As fast-paced and plugged-in as today’s world can be, sometimes the very creatures that world creates can help slow it down a bit. Take a look at @everyword, and learn a new word. Or follow @HaikuD2 to see how random life observations can literally be poetry. I’ll conclude this article with an example from @HaikuD2:

Just saw a photo

of a primary school me

My, how times have changed

@Area11Leo

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