On the back of the book is the above quote from Dennis Cooper. I generally like Dennis Cooper, but guess what? Spencer’s book isn’t poetry.
It’s something different.
It doesn’t use the traditional forms, it doesn’t rhyme, it’s very observational, it’s structured by day. It got me thinking about a new(er) form of writing, influenced by status updates and how we’re asked to perform in that little box for the sake of likes, shares, retweets and hearts. Everyone is doing that now, even your grandparents, and it’s become one of the dominant forms of writing in the 21st century. People are now using it creatively. Status update lit.
I was thinking ‘status update lit‘ or maybe ‘feed lit’ but ‘feed lit’ sounds like the writing on the back of a dog food bag or perhaps on the back of a Chipotle cup.
From the alt lit independent online writing community I’m involved in, there seems to be four strains that are really altering traditional writing characterizations.
1. Narrative Concrete Minimalism
Mostly in prose and novels. Sam Pink does this consistently well, with lots of line breaks and short sentences, each sentence inhabiting the space of the “traditional paragraph.”
Mostly in poetry, with weird twitter, horse_ebooks, some alt lit and the like. Technically is “status update lit” because it fits into that box, but it feels different. I guess Patricia Lockwood is the poet whose been able to straddle both of these worlds, and Steve Roggenbuck to a certain extent as well.
3. Image Macros
Basically takes a lot of the conceptual/weird twitter aesthetic and places it over an image, causing another level of (dis)connection. Internet Poetry is my personal favorite site.
4. Status Update Lit
Obviously, weird twitter fits in here, but the difference for status update lit is that it seems more focused on first person observations about themselves or the world around. It’s not as joke-oriented as weird twitter/flarf and there’s a mini-narrative contained within. Heiko Julien is great at it and so has Megan Boyle in “Selected Blog Posts from a Mexican Panda Express Employee,” though they both seem different from one another. Spencer’s book emulates that form (lists, dates). People have been classifying this as poetry, but it really is different in the way that it inhabits a new rhythm and expectation.
This is not to say that people involved in alt lit, weird twitter, bizarro and other writing communities are not doing more “traditional forms” of poetry, prose, short stories and novels (they are and are playing with tone, subject matter, life experience etc.), these 4 forms just really seem to be breaking the form of written words, itself–the way it looks on the page. A lot of writers do all of the above and more.
*Note* I’m not saying other people/movements haven’t experimented with form, I’m just saying these seem (fairly) new.