Twitter increased the character limit of tweets this week, from 140 to a whopping 280.
I have no strong opinions on this, honestly — it was an arbitrary limit dictated by earlier technology which spurred creative work-arounds, but the pure 140-character tweet (without pics, gifs or links) has been dead and gone for quite a while now. Some folks think this spells the end of the platform, but I doubt it.
More to the point is everything Twitter isn’t doing, changes users have been begging for a long time: better handling of abuse and hate speech, the removal of neo-nazis and white supremacists, protection from mobs of trolls and harassers.
Carlos Maza covers the complexities of protecting free speech on social media platforms in a recent Vox video.
I love how nihilistic this is. "More expression! More of what's happening! We've lost control of our platform! God is dead! Rejoice!" https://t.co/DM4srUnOQh
In light of these challenges (and Twitter’s inaction in rising to them with any coherent vision of what meaningful conversation might actually look like), bumping up the character limit to 280 seems largely irrelevant. What will we say in 280 characters that we haven’t learned to say in 140?
They loosened the corset but too late. Our organs, long since grown narrow, shook in the space like a rattle, making a sickly noise.
Masks are everywhere these days… and not just because Halloween is just around the corner. Sometimes we don’t even realize the masks that we’ve been wearing — the patterns and themes and synchronicities that have been lurking behind the mask of random chance in our lives — until someone else points them out to us.
That’s sort of what happened to me when, by sheer coincidence (or was it?), a curiously thematic bunch of my poems all were accepted for publication during the month of October. Five poems, written over the span of a decade, accepted by three different journals. I didn’t even realize they had anything much in common until I sat down to write up this little blurb — and then suddenly it was staring me in the face!
Each of these poems grapples with the liminal — the boundary between inside and outside — essence and appearance — and how we navigate, negotiate, construct, deconstruct, interpret and re-imagine those edges as part of the on-going processes of exploring self-identity.
My poem “Mask” (above) is featured as this month’s Post Poem by Raw Dog Press, an independent publisher since 1972 specializing in post card poetry and chapbooks.
Each of us comes from the union of a man and a woman, but, by definition, the DNA of conception provides a spiral staircase of genetic evolution, an intermixing of male and female characteristics. In her introduction to the 1976 paperback edition of The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), Ursula K. Le Guin wrote that human “psychological reality” can be “androgynous” “at certain odd times of day in certain weathers” and she concludes that “truth is a matter of imagination.” In other words, in recent years society has allowed individuals, mayhap grudgingly, the right to express the inner lives they imagine to be true.
You can read more about this theme in her Editor’s Note. (Also, don’t forget to check out the other contributing poets in this fascinating issue!)
More light-hearted, these three poems shift focus from the performance of gender to the performance (often playful, always double-edged and two-faced) of self-identity more broadly speaking in the strange and wild environs of social media. They poke (and poke fun) at the ways in which our public personas conceal just as much as they reveal. What are the choices we continually make about what we want our “outsides” and “insides” to look like, and who gets to decide which is which?
I hope you’ll check them out! And, as always, if you enjoy them, please support the arts and artists by sharing the love! Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, or hit me up on — you guessed it — social media! (Mostly on Twitter these days, @alileighlilly.)
Photo Credit: “Wellhead 6336,” by Richard Milnes (CC) [source]
I can’t tell you how honored I am to be included among a handful of amazing writers and artists in the most recent issue of Third Point Press, a literary journal that hails from my very own hometown of Lancaster, PA. (There’s an extra special thrill in getting published somewhere that even your mom has heard of!) Check out my piece, “Abstracted.”
Last week, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord. This poem is not about that.
In Morocco, the researchers confirmed,
hungry goats will climb into an argan tree
when they can’t find fruit at their feet
— clamber up and chow down,
ruminate a while, then spit the seed.
This is how it goes, what they call
dispersal, succession, the architecture
of regeneration: the corrosive juices of
the stomach, the bleating laughter, breaking
open and discarding what could not
otherwise long survive in an arid world —
first in the wild, then later, on YouTube.
Petrarch had his Laura,
a phoenix feather for his pen.
Danté’s blessed Beatrice
sent him to hell and back again.
Rilke’s heart-sick panther.
Burns’ wee tim’rous beastie.
None tremble with the thrill I feel
whenever you retweet me.
If my listicles are funny
and my clickbait off the hook,
I know I’m getting through to you
when you like me on Facebook.
They used to call it courtly love,
a bard’s devotion to his muse.
The give and take of glances.
The re-blogs and reviews.
I seduce you with my humor,
I secure you with my wit.
I’m your chaste friendzone beloved.
You’re my one millionth hit.
My every headline is a soul-song,
like a ribbon from my hair
that you proudly wear to battle
as a #hashtag that you care.
But what terrifying angel
draws close to the sublime
— I’d never want to meet you —
it’s much safer here online
where you are just a stranger
and you don’t know who I am,
just the vintage version of myself
I share on Instagram.
Still I try to live the questions
like every question is a meme,
and the memes are in a foreign tongue
quoting shows I’ve never seen.
But my image in your Tumblr
seems to scroll so quickly by,
like how for the greatest poets,
the best muses always die.
So I wander back to Petrarch
and his flame-like quill and ink.
(If you don’t get all these references,
you can Google them, I think.)
Or like Rilke and his panther,
hungry for a change of scene
beyond these ones and zeros
in my heart and on the screen.
Photo Credit: “Keeping notes in the 21st Century,” by Michael Dales (CC) [source]