Friday, December 21, 2012

How Tumblr Got Me Writing Poetry Again

Happy apocalypse!
When I write poetry, I tend to prefer writing in free verse. I am not sure if I could pinpoint when this started, though I believe it is connected to my obsession with sharing my thoughts, and that my streams of consciousness are more likely to come out in poetry space d     oddly than in  n e a t  l i t t l e  r o w s . Admittedly, I generally prefer to read something with a strict meter and rhyme scheme. This makes poetry the only place where what I like to read and what I like to write differ. At least, it is the only place where they differ due to my preferences rather than my ability.

Tumblr has a dialect of its own, and its own accent, which shares some characteristics with my free verse. There's a tendency to avoid proper capitalization and punctuation, but the thing is, this choice is meaningful. Odd spacing, as I demonstrated in the first paragraph, means something to the reader. It slows the sentence down a bit, and makes it more intense. Similarly, an absence of proper capitalization and ending punctuation makes the text look gentler. Pauses are indicated by commas--commas do not have to be used for their grammatically accurate purpose, which frees them in this way--and more emphatic pauses are indicated by line breaks.

Tumblr's dialect lends itself to more intimate blogging. Is it a stream of words with no particular pausing points? You can see the author meant to do that; there are no line breaks, capitals, or commas. Similarly, does one pause in the middle, as one does for a joke? Just hit 'enter' at the relevant moments. Your audience will hear you.

When I hear people talking about how this format came to be, they usually bring up the tagging system, and the fact that tumblr-users tend to make commentary in the tags. Commas are right out, since inserting a comma breaks the tag. With commas out, putting in periods looks odd, and without periods, there's hardly any reason to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. For that matter, breaks are obvious between tags, but they are not exactly like periods or commas, which encourages various ways of expressing such things outside tags--commas and exclamation marks, yes, and also line breaks.

The origin is fascinating to unravel, and I enjoy hearing (reading) new theories, and seeing new reasons for old and new theories. But there's another question, one I find equally interesting: Why did it stick?

People make up new words all the time, often with very intuitive etymologies. However, unless the terms roll off the tongue, they do not stay around very long, or they stay only in technical discussions. Those sorts of terms often get pieces of jargon attached to them, nicknames.

Tumblr is, by its purpose, not technical. So why did these patterns of writing stay?

They're how we think.

They are at least how I think, or as close as I could come to it in the medium tumblr gives me. People use odd words and acronyms, odd line breaks (stanzas), and even gifs. All of these are part of how the tumblr dialect works. One can write on tumblr and not use this dialect, but it would be difficult to work on tumblr without understanding it.

I began writing on tumblr, and falling into those habits. Expressing thoughts in the way which was most intuitive to me, closest to how I would speak if my speech were a few steps closer to my thoughts.

I feel that rhythm in my bones now, as well as I know how to write stories in English, at least as well as I can carry on a conversation in Spanish. So, when I fall into a rhythm where I might have given up on a poem for lack of ability, or never thought to write a poem at all...I can write it.

Thank you, tumblr community. You got me writing poetry again. I never realized how much I missed it.

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