Haiku, Twaiku and Poetweets are Treats

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in  Warsaw September 27, 2013. Twitter Inc, the eight-year-old online messaging service, gave potential investors their first glance at its financials on Thursday when it publicly filed its IPO documents, setting the stage for one of the most-anticipated debuts in over a year. Picture taken September 27.  REUTERS/Kacper Pempel (POLAND - Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS LOGO)
People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw September 27, 2013 and printed in the New York Times recently when Twitter announced its financials.

It’s the Digital Age and most of us know about Twitter – even if we don’t use social media. Twitter is a form of communicating in short sharp messages. You can only use 140 characters, including spaces between words, punctuation marks, line breaks and numbers.

If you are on twitter and tweet you’ll have an address that identifies who you are – it will be something like @whateveryourname is and then a # hashtag preceding the post. You can follow people and they can follow you!


Adventurous writers have embraced yet another form of communication and as time passes even traditionalists find themselves participating in exercises and competitions focusing on new technology.

Welcome to the future where you are required to write a short story, a poem, even a novel, in bite-sized messages of no more than 140 characters! However be careful you don’t land yourself in a heap of trouble like seventy-year-old poet Craig Raine who tweeted his fantasy about a young airport worker and unleashed some very angry responses. This one was succinct and to the point:

Adam Warne@ MrAdamWarne
‘Craig Raine, the poet?’
We have less than half a minute.
‘I studied you. For my MA at uni.
I did an MA in misogyny and the male gaze.’

I teach in community houses and most of my students fall into particular demographics: many are retired and come along to write their life stories, or that novel they’ve talked about for years. Others attend to up-skill, improve gaps in their education, or come to enjoy working with words, being able to write poems and prose the way they want rather than what they were told at school. Others are on maternity leave, long service leave, extended sick leave… many reasons to be looking for a course to enjoy.

Others want to relax and have fun being creative and learning about writing techniques, using the various tools available – and as one class title suggests ‘write for pleasure and publication’.

In most classes, I also have students with disability – acquired brain injury, physical disability related to ageing or accident, early onset Alzheimer’s and a variety of other mental health issues ranging from depression, bi-polar to schizophrenia. The wonderful advantage of teaching and studying in community houses is socialisation and appreciation of diversity, the acceptance that everyone has the one desire – to share stories and imagination through their writing – regardless of (dis) ability.

I plan my lessons to be inclusive – accepting students have a range of abilities, a range of needs – many have been attending for over a decade so I’m hoping I’m doing something right! We have successes with students having work accepted in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines. Some have produced their own books.


This past week we’ve had a lot of fun discussing how we can harness the digital age to improve our writing, or just keep up with advances in technology. Form poetry is always a satisfying challenge and in one class at Godfrey Street Bentleigh for the last 4 years we have written terse verse to match inspiring works produced by the art class. This marrying of creativity becomes a calendar sold as a regular fundraiser at Christmas.

We decided to embrace ‘Twitterdom’ and although some students had heard of Twitter and tweets, no one utilised the platform.(Not even me!) And yet it has been around a long time in the writing world as this article explains: How do I love Thee? Count 140 Characters

Thank you Internet!

I also discovered interesting articles at the excellent source for journalism, Poynter , What Twitter teaches us about writing short and well. It really is great practice for editing, being succinct, searching for the ‘better or more appropriate’ word rather than just writing the first noun or verb that pops into your head.

A clever teacher/educator, Tracee Orman has devised a Poetweet and Twaiku Poetry Exercise.


If you haven’t worked it out Twaiku is three lines and 17 syllables like a haiku, but it also limits how many characters (including spaces) are used: no more than 140 and that includes your twitter hashtag.

Remember: Traditional haiku has the first line containing 5 syllables, second line 7 syllables, and the last line 5 syllables.

A Poetweet is poetry inspired by the social-networking site Twitter. The users of this site post tweets (like Facebook status updates) limiting them to 140 characters. The original poems created are called poetweets.


This is not new – The New York Times Online, Week in Review, March 20, 2011 called on well-known writers to submit poetry – one of my favourite poets, Robert Pinsky submitted this:

Low Pay Piecework
The fifth-grade teacher and her followers–
Five classes, twenty-eight in each, all hers:
One-hundred-and-forty different characters.

So now enough of the background – I had to get down to writing – I always do the task with my students – my effort in splurge time today –

Mod Weddings by MCN
Marriage in the digital age
Invites via Facebook & tweets
One-hundred-and-forty characters
The guests just off the street

Penultimate by M C Neil
The writing class complained
Digital tools are not for them
Pen and ink and even type
Will outlast this Twitter hype!

The Twaiku a bit easier – especially since we could just make up a Twitter call sign.
I decided to use ‘by@tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil’

Here are good examples from twitter.com

raining on sunday
time to do the spring cleaning
watch raindrops instead
By @Gianinec Gianine C

Plain white pages wait
For black ink to carve a path –
Our dreams given life.
By @lilledharmabum Kate Garrett

Here are some Twaiku efforts from me in response to ABC Radio National news this morning (perhaps it’s just as well I don’t tweet):

Farewell Phillip Toyne
You made a real difference
Land and People Care
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

Trans Pacific deal
Economic benefits for whom
Free trade free for all?
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

Stop the boats he said
We now pay people smugglers
Moral compass lost!
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

Now Julie Bishop’s
Definition of foreign aid
A ‘bucket’ of crap
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

News feeds us horror
Like finding out butterflies
Will feast on dead flesh
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

Hilary Clinton
Running for the presidency
Will Bill trip her up?
By @tweetdiddledum Mairi Neil

I think back to my childhood when the telephone was considered innovative and few houses could afford to have one connected. My parents did because railwayman Dad got extra shifts if he was easily contactable and with six children to feed and clothe most of his life revolved around chasing money!

My mother always seemed to know where we had played, what we did at school etc and she’d say ‘a little bird told me’ – I was 9 or 10 years old before it clicked – the telephone a great gossip spreader! No wonder the logo for twitter is a little bird – very appropriate.

Writing Twaiku or poetweets a lot of fun and helps hone your writing skills – why don’t you try it!


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