Archie Ammons composed Tape for the Turn of the Year on an adding machine, an archaic ink and paper accounting device slightly less hip than an abacus. I’m assuming that most of those relics have been relegated, as typewriters and 35mm SLRs, to the bins of rummage shops, the far margins of eBay, cardboard boxes full of junk at the bottom of Brooklyn stoops, the collections of the retro-chic. The point is, Ammons chose the adding machine in order to impose an artificial limitation on his process of composition, and this is of interest to me.
The fact is, I like to hum and whistle while I work, but I don’t tweet. [As of May 2014 I do, in fact, tweet @ProfBennyBull] I am, however, interested in the expressive limitations presented by the Twitter form (let’s call it). I won’t be tweeting anytime soon, but I do text a lot. Since I have my cell phone with me at all times, and because I often leave my apartment without any of the various little notebooks I have accumulated over time, I began texting brief notes to my email address for later review and editing. It occurred to me recently that the 134 characters alloted by my carrier when I text an email address is similar enough to a 140 character tweet, that I could effectively engage with the same compositional structure without actually succumbing to the trend.
And so, I began to use the text-to-email channel to record blurts and musings. Eventually I decided that, although I would continue to avoid punctuation, in order to allow more space for “actual” language, I would break the texts into quatrains. This, I reasoned, incorporates more fully the actual form of the text message, which (depending on the size of the screen of the mobile), has necessarily short lines.
This blerg will serve as a repository of those text messages, dated and stored under the ::txt:: category. I might someday revise and reorder the resultant sequence, and I might someday delete the whole mess. For the time being, though, this is the home of my “txt poem” project.
I like to think of these as contemporary [is it necessary to stipulate “American”?] equivalents of haiku, formally guided by technologic rather than syllabic constraints – and I invite you to do the same. Thanks for reading.