by Meghana Mysore
Yesterday, I wrote a poem on my iPhone, and it went like this:
The red lights,
no one sees
It will be over
and I Thank God
for stop signs.
I do not know entirely what it means, but it has to do with this unstoppable, forever incoming technological traffic. We are part of the 21st century, you and I, part of a society of technological prowess.
Nowadays we rarely sustain a conversation without a technological barrier such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or a Snapchat-Facebook-Twitter-Instagram hybrid. We teenagers are especially prey to this technological obsession. We seem to live for technology, and view it almost as a protective force. Caught in a still, unmoving conversation, we can pull out our iPhones and pretend to text someone, or urgently check up on our ever-changing Twitter feeds. But there is a price to this digitalization of media: the digitalization of our emotions.
What does this mean for poetry’s survival in a technological society? Poetry seems to be dying in the suffocating clutch of social media. When teenagers begin to believe that “texting language” equals standard language, and that “you” is spelled “u” and “you’re/your” is “ur,” a problem is arising. How could poetry fit in with the texting generation?
“No one has time anymore to stop and smell the roses. Everyone wants to hurry. Poetry makes you stop and smell the roses,” my mom, who is also a fan of social media, told me. She is right. My “Notepad Poem,” which, ironically, I wrote on an iPhone, observes this important point. No one is able to see the stop signs, even when they are conspicuously there, blinking their red lights. Day by day, we choose to fall victim to the short-lived luster of iPhones and social media. We choose to hide our faces – and our emotions – behind digital screens. We have forgotten the value of poetry in a quickly typing, quickly texting, and instantly updating society. We have let ourselves neglect the necessity of pausing to smell the roses.
Can poetry survive in the digital age? Yes, poetry can. It can flourish and flower and envelop the blank spaces in our wordless minds. First, though, we have to stop for the red lights. We have to see the red lights, to begin with. We have to notice the world around us, not solely the world contained between the plastic walls of our iPhones. We have to notice the way the hair falls on our friend’s shoulder, and the shadow that perches upon the old man’s wrinkled face. We have to notice the silhouette of the trees. We have to notice that we are living and breathing in a world that, as Mary Oliver so rightly puts it in her poem “Wild Geese,” “offers itself to [our] imagination.” So let us accept the world’s offer. Only then can we begin to rediscover the pulse of poetry. Only then can we understand that poetry does not exist in the absence of technology but in conjunction with it.
We could live in a world where social media, texting and poetry coexist. “Let us herald an age of poetry about technology,” my friend excitedly exclaimed. She has a point: the best poetry often is born from a writer’s surroundings, and these days, we are surrounded with technology. So why not write about it?
While the digitalization of emotions, or desensitization to the world around us, is a negative side effect of a technological society, technology has positive corollaries. It allows for another way to write poetry, giving the poet more creative platforms. I can write a poem traditionally, with pen and paper, or I can use my laptop or the “Notes” section of my iPhone to communicate my thoughts. The prevalence of technology also gives poets thematic material; technology, whether the celebration or condemnation of it, generates a wealth of ideas and opinions. We can incorporate the styles of texting — a lack of capitalization — into our poetry to elicit the digital feeling. Technology in our society acts as both a challenge to, and a catalyst of, creative thought.
We often praise the iPhone for its utility, so let us add this item to its list of uses: a vehicle for poetry. I enjoyed writing “Notepad Poem” on my iPhone, and my instinctual ideas were better conveyed digitally than with pen and paper. A certain authenticity accompanies creating a poem with pen and paper, but writing a poem on a laptop or on an iPhone allows for more efficiency and effectiveness. Perhaps “efficiency” and “effectiveness” seldom describe writing poetry, but they are considerations for the poet in the modern age.
I resist our society’s gravitation, specifically by our youth, towards technology, but I cannot prevent it. Technology, and its emphasis on texting, Snapchatting, and Instagramming, takes away from the beauty of simple moments and causes a fear of silence. Let us, though, live in a world where technology and poetry are not separate. We can live in a place that celebrates the juxtaposition of the quiet, pondering poet and the boisterous, extroverted Snapchat-enthusiast. Perhaps this quiet poet is, in fact, the Snapchat-enthusiast. Creating poetry does not happen in a vacuum. A poet needs the external world, even if it consists of the harsh bind of technology.
I want to live in a world where people stop for stop signs. I want to live in a world where people smell the roses. I want to live in a world where I can post a picture on Instagram, text “how r u” to my friend, then navigate to the “Notes” section on my iPhone to write a poem about this simultaneously strange, technological, digital, poetic, ephemeral, quiet, and bright place we live in.
Meghana Mysore is a junior at Lake Oswego High School, Oregon. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Burningword Literary Journal, Eunoia Review, Crashtest, Canvas Lit, The Noisy Island and more. She is the recipient of several Gold Keys from Scholastic Art & Writing and an Honorable Mention from the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest. Her poetry appears in VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions, Winter 2015 issue.