Samuel Peralta here…
There was a time – when I was looking for myself – when I called myself “Sam Parr”.
It was a singer-songwriter persona, and I used it when writing songs both for my own and for other bands.
That experiment was fairly fruitful. One of the bands I wrote for played to audiences of up to 20,000 people, so I was lucky to have my songs out there.
All in all, I put together nearly 200 songs – many I still love – and over years, drew around 5,000 followers on MySpace.
Once, I was in an art gallery, and an intern there recognized me from my page, calling out as I walked through the door “Oh! You’re Sam Parr!” I had the swagger that MySpace had at the time.
It was a heady experience – but it never seemed, for some reason, completely fulfilling.
It was during that time that I stumbled upon Twitter.
At the time, I was doing work with the IEEE Short Message Service (SMS) InterNetworking Advisory Group, and various other industry working groups looking at the interoperability of communications protocols.
A variant of text messaging, Twitter used a portion of texting’s SMS protocol to send messages not just between one person and another, but from one person to the world.
More exactly, it sent messages of up to 140 characters to as many people as cared to subscribe to that person’s broadcasts, their so-called tweets.
At first, these tweets were exclusively miniature status reports, micro-blogs that reported where someone was, what they were doing, what the weather was.
“Working late tonight.”
“Meeting my friend later at Pizza Hut.”
“More rain tonight.”
Later on, as people realized the potential for instant worldwide communication of breaking news, Twitter would become an instrument of social revolution.
I’m sure I wasn’t the first, but even back then, I saw the potential of this new social media service as a conduit for more than just status updates or news.
The beauty of Twitter – classic Twitter, without Vine or the other multimedia add-ons that are beginning to embroider its edges – is that it is all about words.
And words, the nuance of language, is what poetry is all about.
I’d already been writing poetry as text messages, using the 160-character SMS limit as a way to discipline my writing, making it more focussed and compact.
Twitter’s 140-character limit – it used the other 20 characters as overhead for its Web-oriented service – could only serve to strengthen that discipline.
I thought of Twitter as a semaphore, a shorthand service that could crystallize thought.
I also saw poetry as a semaphore, wielding words like semaphore flags as a code to signal messages, emotions.
Luckily, it was early in Twitter’s history, that the username I wanted wasn’t already taken.
I decided to call myself @Semaphore.
Instead of status messages, I would broadcast poetry.
Many years earlier, I had been the youngest writer to ever win a Palanca Award in the Philippines, where I grew up, for a manuscript of poems called “Pacific”.
But when I finished my graduate studies, and joined the work force, that promise sputtered.
I barely wrote poetry, perhaps one poem a year.
And in the corporate world of spreadsheets and valuations, engineering prototypes and PowerPoint presentations, I lost myself.
That soul was what I was looking for – and not finding – when I created Sam Parr. But Twitter was a revelation – and for @Semaphore, a breakthrough.
Shadowed in a facet of the rainforest’s emerald face,
the anaconda uncoils an ancient geometry.
Finally we are, facing infinity, breathless.
With the simple 140-character structure focussing my efforts, I began to write poetry again.
A Saint-Saëns concerto, La Muse et le Poète.
Over the mother-of-pearl inlay on the cello,
your fingers decipher the sphinx’ second riddle.
And it was all the poetry that had been locked up inside of me, flowing like an undammed river.
You unearth love with a geological intuition,
cleaving this igneous heart to reveal a hidden feldspar,
shining, a labradorite iridescence.
I found myself again, I found Samuel Peralta…
For you I wish that these poems were rubies,
borne by my own caravan from Xi’an out of Shaanxi,
through Persia, along the northern Silk Road
…And I have never looked back.
Tonight, I am inviting you to write your own Twitter poems.
Your poem can be made up of any number of stanzas, with each stanza made up of a single 140-character tweet.
Strictly speaking, a tweet includes 140 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation – that’s what we’ll define as a single stanza, defining one complete thought or image.
However, if you’d like a bit of a challenge, try making your stanzas exactly 140 characters, no more and no less. My own poems that I’ve presented above do just that.
Post the whole poem on your blog and and link to it here, so that others can come and visit your poetry journal. If you’ve got a Twitter account, post your Twitter name here or on your blog, as well.
When you’re done, post the whole poem on Twitter, one tweet, one stanza at a time! And then if you can, visit everyone’s poem and re-tweet them on your timeline.
It will be a wonderful celebration of poetry – 140 characters at a time.
Samuel Peralta – on Twitter as @Semaphore – is the award-winning author of five titles in The Semaphore Collection – Sonata Vampirica, Sonnets from the Labrador, How More Beautiful You Are, Tango Desolado and War and Ablution – all Amazon Kindle top five best sellers in poetry.
Copyright (c) Samuel Peralta. All rights reserved.
Images public domain / via WikiMedia Commons or as attributed.