Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's National Poetry Month, and the Emily Dickinson Museum is now on Twitter

It's National Poetry Month, and the Emily Dickinson is in the midst of an especially ambitious and successful program: the "Big Read," in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Amherst 250th Anniversary Committee (more on individual events on another occasion).

The Museum has also gone modern. Although Emily once famously called publication "the auction of the mind," she also had a fascination for and mastery of the compact form, which poses such steep challenges to the writer. In a way, then, it is both ironic and fitting that the Museum is now on Twitter, in which every utterance must be contained in a mere 140 characters.

EDM thus joins over 200 of its sister museological enterprises--not to mention Ashton Kutcher and CNN Breaking News, recently locked in battle over their quest for mega-followings (nominally gathered in the service of charitable giving).

It's just too bad that the real Emily was so reticent and did not live in the age of Twitter. I would love to be able to read her concise and uncompromising tweets on these declarations by Ashton Kutcher & Co.:
"At the end of the day, we all have ego, we all have some level of ego," he said. "But if we can use our ego to actually create good charitable things in the world in some way, and use our ego -- originally, I defined Twitter as an ego stream when I first saw it. But then what I realized is if we can transform that into something that's positive that can actually effectively change the world, that can be a really valuable tool."
"I think it's really important that Twitter is not about celebrities. It's not a platform for celebrities," he said. "In all these interviews and things, it's been celebrity -- you know, people know have been on TV. It's really about everyday people having a voice. And I don't want it to be dwarfed by celebrity."
Sean 'Diddy' Combs, who joined Twitter and threw his support behind Kutcher, told Larry King that he views Twitter as an important medium for him to share who he "really" is, and give fans a direct line of communication to him. "It's a chance for people to know the real me," he said. "Due to my own fault there's such a persona of the Hamptons and the bling-bling and the "Forbes" list and who I'm dating. There's more substance to me than that. Over time I've just wanted to make sure that that has gotten out."
One can't exactly imagine one of them writing,
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you-Nobody-too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Dont tell! they'd banish us-you know!

How dreary-to be-Somebody!
How public-like a Frog-
To tell your name-the livelong June
To an admiring Bog!
And that's just the point (though in 210 characters, alas).

As for me, in the end, I'm just as glad to let Dickinson speak to the ages through her poetry, and to let the Museum speak to those who value her work and her world--on Twitter or anywhere else.

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