It’s Insane/3? U crazy!: a romantic conTEXTing poem

This is an example of a ConTEXTing poem (a term I invented):

 

It’s insane/

how u complain/

that I don’t call./

Instead, 2 poems/

got sent to your home!/

Most women/

r pleased with 1/

but u?/

not even 2/

will do!/

U want 3?/

U crazy!

=====================

What is a ConTEXTing poem? Some of the hallmarks of a ConTEXTing poem include:

  • The poem’s length is confined by the number of characters allowed in one SMS (Short Message Service), so you don’t have to go to the dreaded “SMS 2″ message, which really messes up the meter, the rhythm, and the visual effect of having the poem on one page.  (Is it 160 characters? or does it vary by carrier?)
  • That forced length requires the writer to severely edit the stanzas and adjust the meter and rhythm. “I think it’s insane” becomes simply “It’s insane”.  “You are crazy!” or “I think you’re crazy” gets clipped into an Italian dialect “U crazy!” “Most ordinary, romantic women” is reduced to “Most women”.
  • Text message abbreviations (”U” for “you”; “2″ for “too”, “two” or “to”; “4″ for “four” or “for”; “yer” for “your” or “you’re”; “r” for “are”.
  • Because a “hard return” forces the poem off the page, line ends are shown by the / mark.

As ConTEXTing poetry becomes more popular, expect some debate on certain items, including:

  • The use of emoticons in ConTEXTing poems. For example, what verbal sounds do : – D or ; – ) make?
  • The use of common text message abbreviations. Is “LOL” pronounced “Laugh out Loud” or “el oh el” (”L O L” with each letter individually pronounced), or “Lawl”? What about ROFL and its extensions ROFLMAO, ROFLMHO, ROFLMBO, etc?? “Rolling On Floor Laughing” or “RawFull” or “R O F L? And “ASAP”? While older than texting/SMS, it is frequently used. Is it: “A S A P,”, “Ay Sap”, or “As Soon As Possible”.
  • The length as forced by technology. As the technology driving SMS or wireless phone texting expands and improves, will ConTEXTing poetry stay within the early confines of 160 characters? If not, how far can it expand without it losing its identity as an individual and distinct form within the genre? If so, can abbreviations, forced meters, etc., be enforced? Will a writer, unencumbered by the Damoclean fear of the dreaded “SMS 2″ message and the “Characters left” countdown, still resort to the limitations and abbreviations placed on current ConTEXTing poets?
  • The length as forced by carrier or phone (device) limitations. Does every phone on every carrier have a character limit of 160 characters? Are those limitations only ATT? And only on certain phones, but not on others (for example, the Blackberry, iPhone, etc.) If Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and others have different limitations based on cell capacity, packet size, or devices, do those poets become suspect simply because they do not conform to a strict 160 character limitation?
  • If those “freed” poets do conform — to fit the parameters of ConTEXTing poetry — can they do so without the forced limitations? If they can, then are they above those of us who are forced to stay within the boundaries of technological limitations? Do they become as the Haiku masters, transcending our poetic abilities because of the boundaries and rules they follow not because they have to, but because they want to and can?

Because ConTEXTing poetry is a new form of the poetic genre, these debates — and others — will gain added significance as time goes on. Since I invented the term “ConTEXTing Poetry” to specifically describe a poem written within the confines of a wireless telephone text message, I am as qualified as anyone to opine on these items. As in any academic or creative endevor, however, I believe debate is healthy, and would welcome other opinions; here are some of mine: (I expect this list to grow as I think about it. Today, January 29, 2009, is the first day that I’ve thought in depth about the literary merits of my discovery!):

Regarding use of abbreviations (ROFL, LOL, etc) in ConTEXTing poetry:

Personally, I think that/

the governing principle should be/

the sender’s individual/

creativity!/

Also, I think as well/

that by the conTEXT/

you can tell/

how 2 pronounce what’s next!

 

In other words, if someone writes a ConTEXTing poem that says:

“He treated you so awful/

it made me ROFL!”

vs.

“He treated you like hell/

and you could tell,/

he was always ROFL!”

the context and positioning of the rhyme schemes previous to the abbreviation in question dictate “what comes next”. In the first example, “ROFL” is clearly meant to be pronounced “RawFull”. In the second, “ROFL” must be pronounced “R O F L”, with each individual letter pronounced so that “L” rhymes with “hell” and “tell”.

Conclusion regarding abbreviation pronunciation: Word placement, rhyme scheme, rhythm and circumstances dictate pronunciation.

 ——————–

 

Regarding the technological, carrier and device limitations which force ConTEXTing Poets into an artificial 160 character (or less?) limit:

 Because I invented the term “ConTEXTing Poetry” based on the 160* character limitation of my carrier (ATT), my phone (Sony Ericsson) and the system used (SMS) on ATT’s network, those are the standards which will be set. Any other forms (for example, an ode sent on a Blackberry, iPhone, or even through other service types on my phone (MMS, for example), are not ConTEXTing poems. If they were, what would differentiate them from any other form in the genre? The character limitation, the overshadowing fear of the “SMS2″ message,  the palpitations and anxiety caused by the appearance of the “character countdown” as the ConTEXTing poet nears their limits, and the abbreviations and editing required to fit within that limitation — whether real or imagined — are all part of the discipline and experience the ConTEXTing poet must subject themselves to. 

 *(Note: my character counting on my phone may be incorrect. I will check with ATT to discover if the character count on an SMS is, in fact, limited to 160, if it varies based on the letter width (does a lowercase “l” carry less width than, for example an uppercase “W”? If so, then does writing ConTEXTing poetry in all lower case allow you a few more characters than if you use uppercase?  And would the word “beam” use more character space than the word “lilt”? (and how does that impact the writer, especially during the editing process? Does “a dream” become “1 think” to save a character or 2? More questions to discover! At this point, though, the definition is 160 characters, where a character is any letter, number or symbol.)

Conclusion regarding ConTEXTing Poetry and real or artificial limits: 160 characters maximum (no minimum) on a wireless (mobile) phone device.

——-

Regarding the non-forced limitations which ConTEXTing Poets with superior devices, carriers, or systems (now or in the future) subject themselves to. Does the fact they can, of their own free will, follow those limitations, like Haiku masters, make them “better” ConTEXTing poets?

 Better? I’ll opine no. They are fitting words into a numeric limitation, by whatever means needed (except audio/visual/pictorial: not allowed!). I would also argue that they may be in fact missing part of the creative tension caused by the character countdown and the “SMS 2″ message. I wonder if that tension, of knowing by experience that you are nearing the “end”, when the character countdown starts (usually at about 20), and the frustration of having your last stanza end with a multi-syllabic word that fits perfectly into rhyme, meter, rhythm … but is 5 characters too long, so you have to go back and abbreviate and edit… and what if you have already, and the poem is very tight. Do you sacrifice that perfect word? or do you cast away another perfect, though lesser word? Or do you invent something new (if not new to others, maybe new for you?) “@” for “at”, for example! Does that tension exist for poets who are technologically unrestrained by those limitation? And, if not, can they really create ConTEXTing poetry?

Conclusion regarding ConTEXTing Poetry and artificial limits: 160 characters maximum (no minimum) on a wireless (mobile) phone device.

I think some ConTEXTing poets will, in the future, be able to bring themselves to a ConTEXTing “Zen” place, where they can artificially create that tension and limitation in their own minds. In other words, they qualify with the restrictions below. I think the ConTEXTing form is too new yet to be able to tell. I know, for me, writing on a wireless laptop keyboard, keeping within an articical 160 character limitation, is nothing like the experience of thumbing a ConTEXTing poem on my Sony Ericsson! However, I will not judge: if it’s 160 character created and sent through SMS on a wireless phone (an important distinction, as noted below), then it qualifies as “ConTEXTing poetry”.

Conclusion regarding ConTEXTing Poetry and artificially-limited poets: 160 characters on a wireless (mobile) phone device. If there is no “forced” limit on the poet’s device, that doesn’t make them a better (or worse) ConTEXTing poet. It merely makes their experience different.

———-

Does ConTEXTing poetry require a wireless phone and SMS sending device? Or can anyone create a ConTEXTing poem based on following the 160 character, / for line break, conventions?

Like the forced character limitations discussed above, part of the tension of the ConTEXTing poetic experience is the frustration and limitation of caused by the device. I, for example, as a writer used to a QWERTY keyboard on a wireless laptop, can type more than 80 words per minute using every finger on both hands. Thumbing a text message on my 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch number pad on my Sony Ericsson, even using T9 and word prediction capabilities, slows me down to about 20 words per minute or less. I literally have to slow my thought processes and rhyming processes down to match the rate my thumbs can move… and heaven help me if the predictive text puts in “gone” instead of “home”!

The argument could be made that ConTEXTing poetry requires a numeric keypad to really be “ConTEXTing” poetry. Before QWERTY keyboards became commonplace on cell phone devices, I would have agreed. If this description would have been written 3-4 years ago, I would have placed that limitation on it. However, I’m willing to bend a little on this, because I’ve seen that even friends who have QWERTY keyboards are slowed by the in-ability to use all their fingers when sending messages.

True, they don’t have the frustration caused by predictive word or T9 technology, and the requirement to go back and edit “gone” instead of “home”. Nor do they have the requirement to spell out “Less” by thumbing the 5 key three times, the 3 key twice, and the 7 key four times, waiting for a few seconds, then thumbing the 7 key four times again! BUT they do have the “fat thumb” frustration of thumbing two keys simultaneously. and ending up with:

Thje disatyenvcer/xcausredf EResdistqance!
(The distance/caused Resistance!)
It’s an extreme, but valid, example.

 

Conclusion regarding devices which can generate ConTEXTing Poetry: a ConTEXTing poem MUST be created on a wireless / mobile PHONE device with a limited space keyboard, capable of sending SMS/Text messages. (That’s why it’s ConTEXTing poetry!) That limitation, that forced physical frustration, the lack-of-speed tension, is part of the ConTEXTing poetic experience.

 (Interesting question: does the experience become poetic because of the tension and frustration? If so, could we then say that it has become a ConTEXTing Poem poetic experience for the ConTEXTing poet?)

In addition, ConTEXTing poetry requires that the keyboard be physically part of the wireless mobile phone device itself (in other words, a foldout attachable keyboard where the typist can use all their fingers does not qualify!), where the ConTEXTing poet is forced to use only their thumbs or another pair of fingers, but not all of their fingers as they could on a normal computer QWERTY keyboard.

Thus, Blackberries, PDAs, iPhones, etc., as composition instruments, as long as they follow all the other conventions and requirements of SMS/Text Messaging ConTEXTing poetry!

————
Finie: The end the Initial Blog Discourse on ConTEXTing Poetry:


I started writing this as part of an explanation of a sample ConTEXTing poem I wrote a friend last night. It became, over the course of the morning of January 29, 2009, the first dissertation of what ConTEXTing Poetry is, why it exists, the parameters, limitations and restrictions of it, and … other random thoughts.

 

An interesting example: You’ll notice that the example above (within the context of this discussion, where I talk about pronunciation) of ConTEXTing poetry doesn’t fit the requirements!
First, (you wouldn’t know this, but it’s a discussion for another time), it was created by me, in ConTEXTing poetry FORMAT, but using my wireless LAPTOP (QWERTY keyboard, all 10 fingers used typing 80 words a minute, therefore not allowed!). (Another interesting thought: Could I have EVER written THIS dissertation in text on my phone? NO WAY! My thumbs would have fallen off!)
Second (and a dead give-away that it was done on my laptop), without the character limitation/SMS2 message feature, I had no way of knowing that my character count is around 170 characters. I’ll go back and fix it later… but I’ll leave the original, to make certain people can see the difference and discipline required to fit the ConTEXTing Poem form.


I’m now finished with the first draft of this dissertation. I’m going to post it, edit it and format it later. Because it was originally tied to the “It’s Insane/3? U crazy” poem, I’ll leave it attached to it, BUT will post it as a separate post or perhaps even page, later.


Then I’ll apply for my Doctorate/
(and won’t it be great?)/
As the world’s leading authority/
on ConTEXTing poetry!/
(I think, to prove I’m a nut!/
I’ll create a reward:
Two BIG Thumbs Up!)
———-
I’ve had a poet friend who has been following this posting from the original to its final posting at about 12:15 p.m. I avoided calling her or writing her anything for fear of any discussion with her would have a Coleridge/Xanadu impact on me, take me out of the “moment”, and I would lose my thoughts. But, now, I’ve completed this first draft. Shortly before noon I decided to text her a brief “Please wait!” text, knowing I would soon be finished with this dissertation.

Appropriately, it turned out to be a ConTEXTing poem:

Brilliance shall be/
unfolded soon!/
Then you’ll see/
something to make U swoon!/
Something U will both/
read and hear!/
Pleasant 4/
the eye and ear!/
Soon!/
Post noon!

And so ends the first dissertation about ConTEXTing Poetry.

PS: I’d originally called this type of poetry “ConTEXTual”, meaning being in the context of a text message/SMS. However, “ConTEXTual” poetry is a valid term coined earlier to discuss and analyze the significance of a poem in the context of its history, surroundings, meaning, what the poet was thinking at the time, etc. In short, its context.

As a result, I decided (and I think this discussion is better for it), that this poetic form should be called “ConTEXTing Poetry” because texting is an active verb, so it becomes a much stronger adjective for the type of poetry that it is.!

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One Response to “It’s Insane/3? U crazy!: a romantic conTEXTing poem”

  1. mipoeta Says:

    Even though I am at times a “purist” who bemoans the loss of who/whom and the third person singular for the plural, I also understand that language is ever changing. I have a new phone that will allow me to send more that 160 (?) characters; however, it requires much more time and effort (and ignoring that T1) to type in “you” instead of “u.”

    Doing this, I think, changes the way we read and write poetry. The way we communicate is changing. I cannot imagine people waiting for the next installment of Tennyson — we want things fast. ConTEXTing (ConTEXTual)l Poetry reflects this.

    You mention “haiku”; I wonder if we will seen a renaissance of “renga” or “renku” as technology enables us to send longer and longer text messages more easily. I wonder, hypothetically, will the ConTEXTing / ConTEXTual Poem you text inspire me to add on to it and send it on to another who will continue? I’m not even close to an expert on haiku or renga/renku, but still I wonder.

    I enjoyed reading your explanation as well as your ConTEXTing Poems. Keep writing!

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