Documenting Poetic Text in a Tweet

Samuel B.

I will be discussing a poetic text by Beth Moore documented as a “tweet.” A tweet is a digital document that can contain a text of at most 140 characters, and optionally images or a video. On October 2 2016, Beth Moore tweeted a poem (Fig. 1.) As far as I know, this tweet is the only document on which this specific text was published. The form of a tweet is a one-dimensional block of pixels displaying a text that can be clicked on and expanded to reveal further information about the tweet such as the date and time that the tweet was published and responses to the tweet. Additionally, tweets are presented in a timeline which is a vertical list of tweets presented to a user of Twitter containing tweets from other Twitter users they follow or that Twitter wants them to see.

Fig. 1. Moore, Beth. “Bewildered traveler poem,” Twitter.com, 2 October 2016. Author’s screenshot. 21 March 2017.

One of the major ramifications of the form of a tweet on Moore’s intention for how her text is to be read is that because of the date and time feature of Twitter, users can search for tweets published within a certain time frame (including from when Twitter began to the present) by a specific user, a specific group of users, and/or containing a specific word or phrase. Thus, any twitter user reading Moore’s poem is able to use Twitter’s search features to investigate tweets sent by political and/or religious leaders close to the same time as Moore’s tweet to understand the historical context of Moore’s tweet. Essentially, Twitter has something like a built in history book available to anyone who reads Moore’s tweet. Not only this, but also the responses to Moore’s tweet can lead users to useful information related to the tweet’s meaning and reveal how Moore’s audience received the tweet which provides insight on the meaning and purpose of the text.

As mentioned, the design of a tweet is essentially a 140 character message. The succinctness of a tweet illustrates Moore’s intention for her text to be read briefly, understood unambiguously, and retained by the reader. This is perhaps contrary to traditional poetry which is often intended to be meditated on and analyzed critically for meaning. The clarity of the poem’s meaning is made evident by common Christian allusions such as “Zion” and the metaphor of the Christian life being like a literal path. Moore’s desire for the poem to be retained is evident by the rhyme and rhythm of the poem. The combination of the search functions of Twitter and the brevity, straightforwardness, and rhyme and rhythm in the tweet suggest it was intended, much like a catchy song on the radio, to be understood contextually, heard briefly, and remembered.

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