The Poetry of Social Media

I’ve conducted a kind of casual social experiment. I decided to do so in order to get the public’s perspective on what they think poetry is (there are no wrong answers, necessarily: some are academic, some are introspective, some spiritual, some lighthearted jokes). The reason I wanted to ask others, specifically those who don’t study poetry or literature on a higher educational level, is because I feel like the more I immerse myself in poetry, the more I am perplexed by it. So, I was wondering if those who don’t spend as much time thinking about, reading or writing poetry felt similarly as I did or not.

At first, I posted a Facebook status bluntly asking, “What is poetry?” I proceeded to attach the link to our blog, The Contemporary Poem. I posted the status rather early in the day, so I waited until the evening to read the responses. But there was nothing there. Now, perhaps no one saw my status and it got lost in everyone’s BuzzFeed-polluted news feeds, but it could also suggest other possibilities.

Perhaps no one wanted to comment on my status because they were not confident to start conversation on something they didn’t know much about for all of Facebook to see. Or maybe those who did read the status knew I was a writing major and felt intimidated or judged by what I might think. Or perhaps no one cared. Nevertheless, I think this bump in the experiment is a noteworthy one.

So, in order to actually get responses, I tried again. But this time, on my boyfriend’s Facebook. He posted a status reading similarly, but apparently came off more welcoming: “here’s a thinker for you: what is poetry? (input encouraged)”

And, maybe you guessed it already, but he got responses! They are rather interesting:

“Poetry is writing that cuts out meaningless filler. Poetry is difficult to describe because emotions are difficult to describe and it is essentially a way to describe emotions. When you have thoughts and emotions they are better reflected with striking words and imagery rather than story telling and linear forms of writing; not that poetry can’t tell a story.
Ideas always seem so clear in your head and I think poetry is an attempt to capture that mental clarity without all of the clutter and fluff that floods everyday speech and thought. Almost like meditation with words. But then again thats my interpretation, there are lots of different styles of poetry and lots of different people that think and express in different ways.
Try some Japanese Death Poems. The use of language is simple, and brings a sense of tiredness.” -male, age 22

“Poetry is an aesthetic communication of thoughts/feelings… poetry conveys what gets lost in translation. words sometimes aren’t enough.i think poetry is a lot like empathy… i think we can FEEL what poetry conveys even if the string of words doesn’t particularly make sense to us” -female, age 20

“Poetry is painting with words.” -male, age 24

“Poetry is lyrics without the music.” -female, age 55

“When I write poetry,..rhyming always, I do it to memorialize something or someone that I’ve observed doing/being something that moved my heart and spirit” -female, age 77

Disregarding the cliches, we can find a common theme here. People write when they want to express an emotion, scholarly or not. So, maybe the next time I cannot understand what a poet is trying to say, I’ll instead try to experience what they are feeling. Not all aspects of poetry demand reading comprehension or even logic. But it should always demand one of our most human abilities, to feel.

2 Replies to “The Poetry of Social Media”

  1. I love social media experiments! It’s a good way to get a cross-selection of people if you have a diverse group of friends/acquaintances. I think it’s interesting that people were more inclined to answer your boyfriend’s status than your own. I agree that maybe some people were intimidated because they know that you’re an English major.

    I often wonder if people are afraid to share their writing with me because of my major and job as a writing tutor. For instance, my brother-in-law wrote a poem for my sister for their anniversary; it had rhyming couplets and really cute anecdotes from their relationship. But he was afraid to show it to me at first because he knows my poetry doesn’t do that. I ended up reading it anyway and I thought it was adorable.

    Anyway, your experiment has inspired me to try something similar in the up-coming weeks. I might not ask a similar question but maybe I’ll try to link this blog to my Facebook or post a link to a poem to see what people say. (However, I do have a lot of Geneseo friends who are into poetry so my experiment might not work.)

  2. Lauren, this is an awesome way to see how other people view art without (assumably) having much experience with it. I think it’s interesting how you needed to change the facebook status to be more inviting, and allow to feel comfortable with the conversation.

    There have been several posts recently about how poetry is taught in school, and the consensus seems to be that students tend to have an aversion to poetry. I think there’s a stigma to poetry that it isn’t accessible or relevant anymore, or that there’s something intimidating and mysterious going on behind the words.

    I love that you put yourself out there and did that little experiment. It’s helpful to know what people think about poetry, so that as poets we can try to get others excited as well, but also write poems that are fresh and exciting–breaking away from the stereotypes and expectations that students seem to dread and be accustomed to.

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