- 140 Twitter Poems by Christopher Carmona
By Christopher Carmona. Translated by Gerald Padilla.
McAllen, TX: Jade Publishing, 2017. 140 pp. ISBN: 978-0-9985390-03
140 Twitter Poems by Christopher Carmona is a poetic log of a project to compose daily shortform reflections (140-character tweets) on social and political concerns during the 137 days between December 1, 2015, and April 12, 2016. Rather than reflect on public events that made headlines, the poems contemplate the repercussions of political systems and social conditions on those who suffer them:
manufacture a rebellion.I will teach you about consent.ask a cop about wallsI will teach you about the mindjail.The door is unlocked.(70)
Just as often, Carmona's tweets explore the modes in which poets—and their poems—inhabit the social and political world; the book thereby becomes a progressively more intense exploration of the art of poetry and its impact on individual readers, on poets themselves, and on public discourse.
Like haiku poems—for which Carmona advances some humorous parodies—these works make effective use of the character limit to compress his meditations into elliptical observations, often communicated with concrete images. This seemingly artificial constraint that enjoys wide recognition gives Carmona a platform for outlining a vision that will be familiar to readers of his prose: when history threatens to impoverish the language of poetry, the inventive imagination will reconstruct the boundaries of thought and action with language that outstrips whatever holds us back. Twitter #93 offers a prime example of Carmona's resort to a bifocal vision that embraces an historical past while equally anticipating an abundance of fresh, adequate language to transcend the limits, confinements, and burdens of political and social history.
interpret me.do not translate me.I don't want an imitation of mein different grammatical skin.I wish to be writen [sic] anew inanother voice.(93)
The perhaps purposive misspelling of "written" belongs to this overarching poetic project to reinvent language under the pressure of events—an enterprise that has been a staple of the modern poetic mainstream from Wordsworth or Whitman onward to our own time.
This bifocal perception makes Carmona's poetic persona a participant observer that even bears some resemblance to Whitman's "compassionating self" who can move "both in and out of the game" (29). But Carmona transfers that double perspective into circumstances that more closely resemble Melville's world because his speakers struggle with historical restrictions against which they press, sometimes violently, to break through walls that enclose them.
open. close. swish. shut.it's coming. soon.the lock will reveal itself. tobe a key.whack. punch. bloody knuckles.why must poetry bleed?(92)
Unlike Melville or Poe, Carmona affirms that deliverance is still possible—the lock, he asserts, will transmute into the liberating key—and by straddling these poetic strategies, Carmona works toward his own version of a hybrid poetics that can observe, with suitable irony, a wide spectrum of serious and trivial concerns through the same keyhole aperture of a tweet.
And because each distinct piece never delivers any synoptic survey of the depth and breadth of the universe that is entangled by these poems, there are frequent opportunities for surprises and jarring shifts in tone, subject matter, and poetic method. These shifts will inevitably cause the reader to feel lost at [End Page 143] times, but by persevering—and more importantly by rereading the twitter poems out of sequence, repeatedly dipping into the book here and there—the cast of Carmona's project will begin to resonate and expand. The reader may even respond to the invitation of #65 and join the interactive game that Carmona seems to have in mind:
quick. jump through thewallthe other side is waiting foryou.don't think. don't doubt.just jump. the wall will move.it always does.(65)
When those twin poetic strategies are effective—inspect barriers to freedom accompanied by a counterpoint of invitations to engagement—then the suffering, anxiety, and even death flung at us in this, or any, historical moment...