Broadcast in September 2016 on BBC Radio 4's Four Thought program and downloadable as a podcast:
"Poetry on social media is more than a never-ending stream of haiku concerning the changinglight of the moon on water, or the beauty of cherry blossom. It's far more interesting and relevant than that. It's an opportunity for poetry to present itself in situations when people most need it."…
Producer: Sheila Cook.
The podcast features Brian Bilston. As related in the podcast, his second Twitter poem, titled Frisbee, resulted in him being known as The Social Media Poet.
through the air
above our heads
over the sand
into the water
onto the waves
out to sea.
You cried a lot that day.
Frisbee was a lovely dog.
I have to admit to being a member of the police — Leonard Cohen's jazz police and Brian Bilston's grammar police (I've lynched people for writing it's when they should have used its).
THE GRAMMAR POLICE
the grammar police got him
split his infinitive open,
removed his colon
and left him lying commatose
the next day he was pronouned dead
You can find Brian on Twitter at @brian_bilston. He relates in the podcast how he started to talk to strangers on Twitter, “Some of whom were very strange.” I probably count as a strange Twitter person so if you don't follow me already I'm @Bix_cool :)
My accessible Twitter client, The Qube, has been struggling for a long time now. Twitter blocked it from posting any data, claiming the app has been used to post too many tweets reported as spam. I actually find that very hard to believe, at least no more than any other Twitter app but my beliefs are relatively irrelevant.
So although I have been able to read my timeline, direct messages, favourites etc. and retrieve my followers and search for users, I can't post any new tweet, favourite anybody else's tweet, add anybody or delete anybody from my friends / followers lists etc. using The Qube.
Last week it got worse! My Qube crashed and when I rebooted it needed to retrieve an access token from Twitter to authorise Qube to connect to Twitter on my behalf. Now this totally fails too so even the limited access I had is kaput :(
Tweet Me Up, Scotty
I'm still finding my way around the Easy Chirp website page but I must say, on first impressions, I like it! It's easy to jump from tweet to tweet without having to listen to the whole tweet, making it possible to skim read the timeline in the way I could using The Qube. Posting my first test tweet seemed as easy as doing it on the mobile Twitter website, and re-tweeting a tweet by somebody else: was quite a bit easier than on mobile.twitter.com: 'RT @SteveMueske Writing a poem is like knitting a sweater from the fuse of a bomb.'
Most accessible Twitter apps are free to download and use. Chicken Nugget isn't free, it costs $15, but I think that is a very civilised price for the amount of programming that must have gone into developing the app. I downloaded a demo copy and tried it out for a few days then upgraded to a paid copy. I've had it about a year and I admit I didn't find it very easy to get used to after using The Qube. It's like when Word's menu structure changed to the ribbon in Office 2007 and every Word user was scratching their heads wondering which bit of the ribbon contained the features they used to be able to find; 10 years on and I still have to Google to find out where some things are on the Word ribbon!
The Chicken Nugget app tries to be the best of both worlds. It has menu structures such as for Compose (tweets and direct messages) and User (getting information about whoever created a particular tweet, following and unfollowing people) and it also has shortcut keystrokes that you can use. Using the menu I'd go to Compose and select tweet and then type "I have just added a comma to my poem :)" or I could press CTRL-t which pops up the dialog box in which I might type "and I've just taken it out again. Oscar Wilde would be proud :)"
Of course nothing is ever that simple! The Qube was only ever a shortcut key app, there was no menu driven interface that could be used. In The Qube to post a tweet the shortcut key combination was CTRL + Win + n which popped up the dialog box into which you'd type your tweet. I have been using The Qube and its predecessor Qwitter for about 9 years so its shortcut keys are ingrained in my cerebral cortex and getting used to new ones is tricky. It's like when you buy a new TV and its remote control unexpectedly sets off the washing machine unless you're wearing blue socks at the time. I don't know where I'm taking a shortcut to but it's definitely a scenic journey :)
So if you aren't already engaging with the poetry world through Twitter why should you start? It's a very handy way of increasing your readership for your website, your poems and increasing attendance at your events. The downside is that the more people you follow on Twitter the harder it can be to pick out tweets of interest to you. At the time of writing this post I have 395 people followoing me and I follow 511 people, most of whom are poetry people or people I met through making a patchwork quilt just after I lost my sight. At a guess I'd say that about half of the submissions I send have come fromn people I follow tweeting about them. Not only do you hear about those opportunities through Twitter but they also give you timely reminders as the deadline steams up on your ass.
I also find Twitter alerts me to articles on all sorts of subjects. ranging from poetry, current affairs and disability themes. Usually the tweet will include a link that takes you directly to the website where you can read the article, and if you feel so inclined you can re-tweet the link so that all your followers can go read it too :)
When I make my weekly website post on a Sunday I immediately share the link to it on Twitter and then Facebook. There's a good chance you came to be reading this post from such a tweet or FB post, either directly from me or shared by somebody else.
Tweet Tweet Tweet
The big limit, or perhaps the blessing, of Twitter is that a tweet only contains 140 characters. That means you're not going to say an awful lot in a single tweet and trying to post a poem that way usually is limited to quoting memorable lines from a poem, unless you're Brian Bilston. Once or twice I have posted my haiku on Twitter and have been delighted to see that other people have seen them because I used the hash tag #Haiku and they then re-tweeted my tweet. As always it's worth bearing in mind that anything posted on Twitter renders it 'published' so do think ahead if you've got any serious plans for your haiku where being previously published would be a problem.
As I say, I'm still finding my way with Easy Chirp and Chicken Nugget, so whilst re-tweeting has become significantly easier, keeping track of which of my tweets have been shared or which people have followed me or unfoloowed me is trickier than it used to be. It may take me a little longer to follow you back but I generally do return the favour and follow back if we have similar interests. I do hesitate to follow anybody who tweets more than half a dozen times a day because, even when a Twitter app is accessible with assistive technology, if I've been away from the computer for an hour there are going to be 50-100 tweets arrived in my timeline and listening to them is not as fast a process as skim reading them is, and I need to have a chance of spotting the interesting tweets :)
#AccessibleTwitter #Poetry #BrianBilston #Blindness #EasyChirp #ChickenNugget #TheQube @BrianBilston @SteveMueske