June 20, 2019

Poetry in the Tech Era II – Twitching with Anticipation

2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner Patricia Smith leads a generative workshop at Honnold/Mudd Library on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 in Claremont.

Open up a new tab and go to YouTube. Search “poetry.” You will find more poets bopping their own tune on Button Poetry than at any open-mic night in your hometown. The same goes for platforms like Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, and Facebook (seriously though, do yourself a favor and check out some of these people. Patricia Smith, the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner, is a good place to start on Twitter. I’ve found quite a bit of fun reading Poem_for_your_sprog on Reddit too, though be aware it gets a bit weird, as Reddit is wont to do).

I spoke at length in my last post about how Skyfall interwove poetry and technology in a way that reignited my poetic spark. Today I wanted to begin a conversation into a place where poetry and technology has yet to go: Streaming. For those uninitiated in the steaming world: streaming was popularized on Twitch.tv (formerly Justin.tv), where people could create live videos of themselves doing various things. Mostly gaming. However, in recent years, other categories have crept up in popularity. One area, titled “Creative,” promotes real-life passion projects from Art to Cooking. Artists and animators have found success in streaming their artistic processes there, yet poetry and writing have yet to make that same jump.

What does that mean though? Well, many animation streamers actually make a living doing exclusively their artwork. I don’t want to focus entirely on the business side of things, but I will discuss it quickly to emphasize streaming’s viability. Streaming is nearly entirely crowd-funded. Almost anyone can donate to a stream they watch via “bits” (or PayPal donations), and subscribers pay a monthly fee that streamers get a cut of. Streamers can eventually become “partnered,” which further increases their monetization options. While anyone streaming ideally isn’t in it for the money, a poet who can bring together a community should be rewarded with the monetary capacity to continue doing so, and it is nice that Twitch has built that into their set up for streamers. Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can subscribe to one content creator per month, for free (and they still get the dough)!

Money aside, streaming vitalizes and connects a diversity of communities, and that is and always will be the valuable part of poetry in our lives. Imagine being able to get up on a stage and share your work whenever you wanted to. Since creators can interact with their chat in real time, they can have discussions that range from the most mundane “have you seen X on Netflix?” to intense debates about moral values (depending what the host is comfortable with, of course). Twitch, as a platform for creators, allows for authors to autonomously develop their work (mostly) while simultaneously promoting their work and building their audience. Yet streaming distinguishes itself from a platform like YouTube or Twitter because viewers are seeing a completely different product—because all streaming is done live, viewers get to experience (and contribute to) the process. For poetry, that could be introducing budding creatives to new ideas and styles, or demonstrating the writing process of a poem to those who are too scared to start.

Streaming could allow authors and audiences to break down the barrier that alienates the average person from experiencing poetry, just as Skyfall’s usage of Tennyson’s Ulysses did for me. Yet streaming may further what film and other digital platforms have begun, as the nuance of poetry that often escapes the average person can be folded into a real-time discussion of a poet’s work. As a result, digital platforms like streaming offer the inexperienced reader a sort-of life raft to understand poetics. Rather than simply being thrown into the deep end and hoping they can swim, readers can wade through the waters of poetry at their own pace in online communities and watch as poets somersault off the diving board from across the pool.

– Cassady O’Reilly-Hahn


A Moment of Zen:

Dog Chasing Butterflies
His teeth snap the air
as he chases the shadow
of the butterfly.

Strider the Dog