Mobile Poetry

UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy has today claimed that poetry is the literary form of the 21st century, arguing that mobile phones have the potential to transform the world’s youth into the Bards of tomorrow:

“The poem is a form of texting … it’s the original text… It’s a perfecting of a feeling in language – it’s a way of saying more with less, just as texting is.”

OK, so she’s 15 years behind with her technological references (even if she’d referred to Twitter’s 140 character limit, she would have sounded very 2007), and she may be falling too easily into the ‘the medium is the message‘ trap, but there’s something in what Duffy is saying.

Modern communication all about bite-sized, highly concentrated messages, and we’re all becoming experts in deciphering exactly what the ‘;)’ or ‘x’ in the messages we send and receive are intended to say. When space is limited, the absence or presence of a ‘lots of love’ or ‘see you soon’ may reveal everything.

Unfortunately, if recent media reports are to believed, today’s teenagers are using modern telecommunication technology for ‘sexting‘ rather than sonnets. How depressing!

But whatever the youth of today are up to, I’m heartened by Duffy’s faith in the romantic potential of text messages. We should all aim to send nothing less than perfectly constructed sweet-nothings to our lovers’ smartphones. Check out the poem ‘Text’ from Rapture, her 2005 collection of love poetry. It captures the unique thrill of receiving a text message from one’s beloved:

I tend the mobile now

like an injured bird.

We text, text, text

our significant words.

I re-read your first,

your second, your third,

Look for your small xx,

feeling absurd.

The codes we send

arrive with a broken chord.

I try to picture your hands,

their image is blurred.

Nothing my thumbs press

will ever be heard.

Now, wouldn’t everyone love for their text messages to make someone feel like this?