Brevity and Poetry on the Internet

I found out recently that the film version of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, originally released in 1992 and starring Tilda Swinton, is being re-released in theaters. I haven’t seen the film, nor have I read more than a few pages of the novel (I started reading it towards the end of last semester and then had to stop to prepare for my residency), but I read Speakeasy’s interview with director Sally Potter anyway.  The interview was good overall, but my favorite responses by Potter were on the subject of her internet presence. When asked whether she would ever use Twitter, Potter said:

I’ve been thinking about it. It’s about time management. Because if I can’t even answer my own e-mails, let alone questions on a forum, how I would manage Twitter, I’m not sure. But it’s quite appealing, the brevity and poetic nature of it.

And when the interviewer suggested, “You can just dash off a response,” Potter replied:

I don’t dash responses off though. When I type a reply, I do a draft. I polish the draft. I edit the draft. Then I’ll post it in the forum. There’s a tendency to think the internet can be used as throwaway, but I don’t want to put out junk. I don’t want to litter the internet with the equivalent of plastic bottles.

First of all, I’d never thought of Twitter as being in any way a poetic outlet, most likely because so few of its users “tweet” anything of substance. But I like Potter’s idea. At the moment, I don’t have a Twitter account; as Potter noted, it’s one more thing to maintain and I struggle with cultivating this blog as it is. But I might consider it later with Potter’s vision in mind.

Second, I love that she pointed out the “tendency to think the internet can be used as throwaway.” I, like Potter, have a deep respect for language as an art form. I’m also very aware of the inconsistencies and inadequacies of language — especially in writing, its most removed form — that pose problems in precisely conveying meaning. I draft and redraft even emails before I send them out, to say nothing of blogging. (This post alone has taken hours.) I don’t like to clutter anything I write with unnecessary or vague words, and I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to post before I even begin. I don’t want to “litter the internet.” I want to put out only what is lovely, simply stated, and interesting to me. I know that, even if most of the people who come across my blog are those I’ll never meet in real life, and even if I have very little to no “success,” my presence on the internet is a real part of my total presence in the world. In many ways, I’m more open and vulnerable here than I would have the chance to be in regular life: everything is more permanent, so more diligence is required, but I’m also less inhibited. I’m “allowed” to share more of myself — my thoughts, beliefs, interests, aesthetics. As the adage goes, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

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