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Twitter and the Haiku Poet

Writers are often encouraged to engage in social media. Unfortunately, that’s where the advice usually stops. How do you determine which social media platform is right for you? My best advice is to try each of them out and choose one or two to promote your work.

As a writer, Twitter is my favorite social media site. This microblogging platform is where I cut my teeth as a haiku poet. Twitter gave me the freedom to post my early attempts at haiku and get instant feedback from other poets. I learned to let go of any expectation of publication and just let myself write.

Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter is tailor-made for those of us who prefer brevity. Only 280 characters are allowed per tweet (as of this writing), up from 140 characters in the early days. On today’s Twitter, you can attach photographs or videos, include links to your work, and meet and interact with other poets. There is a strong short-form poetry community on Twitter if you know where to look.

I learned about haiku on Twitter. Especially from @IpsaHerself at first then by following other poets. I would’ve never submitted to journals without the support of the haiku community here. But I still feel like a beginner and can learn something from Twitter poets everyday! – Lafcadio (@juliusorlovsky)

Unfortunately, there are also some potential pitfalls for haiku poets using Twitter. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started:

Don’t tweet the same thing over and over. This is the cyber-equivalent of spamming your followers with ads.

Stop SHOUTING! Beware of typing in block letters on Twitter (and elsewhere online). It’s the equivalent of shouting, and it is generally considered to be rude.

Don’t expect everyone to use proper grammar. Twitter is a platform with highly compressed space, so people tend to eliminate punctuation and use abbreviations. For example, you will see “vss” in some tweets referenced in this blog post. “VSS” stands for “very short story.”

Use hashtags. Think of hashtags as signs that point other people to you. Let’s say you are tweeting a haiku about maple trees. You might end your tweet by using any – or all – of the following hashtags: #haiku #poet #poetry #maples #trees. Similarly, you can search for the hashtag #haiku and read some of the freshest haiku out there! If you use multi-word hashtags, it is nice to employ capitalization to make it easier for folks with screen readers (#ThankYou).

Note that Twitter rules prohibit “excessive, unrelated hashtags in a single Tweet or across multiple Tweets.” In addition – to get technical – those in the know believe that the Twitter algorithm penalizes tweets with excessive hashtag use, rendering them less likely to show up in the feeds of your readers. However, Twitter itself has issued the following guidance on hashtags: “We recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet as best practice, but you may use as many hashtags in a Tweet as you like.” In short, your mileage (or readership) may vary, but one or two hashtags per tweet should help you to connect with your audience.

Do tweet links to blog posts, publications, articles you’ve written, and other places where you can engage with your followers in greater depth. Your Twitter feed is like a series of headlines. You provide just enough material for interested readers to drill down further if they wish to.

If you want to share something longer than 280 characters, break it into several posts. When people know they are tweeting a long series on a single topic, they often begin or end their first tweet with 1/ or 1/x. This signifies that the tweet is the first in a series of unknown length (that’s what the x stands for). If you know the number of tweets you’ll need, you can use 1/n, where n is the expected number of tweets. Sometimes, you will see posts that end with 3/2 or some other unusual value – that means the poster needed more tweets than they expected to!

Do interact with other people. The haiku community on Twitter is generally a friendly place. If you want to find a specific person, click on the magnifying glass in the app and conduct a search for their name: Julie Bloss Kelsey. You can also search for a name and a topic: Julie Bloss Kelsey haiku, or a name with a hashtag: Julie Bloss Kelsey #haiku. Even though my Twitter handle is actually @MamaJoules, you should be able to find me. (Please note that it also works to use @mamajoules – Twitter doesn’t recognize capitalization in handles.) Come say hi!

I love writing haiku on Twitter. Also, the community here is so welcoming. I brushed [up on] my skills through various haiku writers I met here. – Kavya Janani. U (@UKavyajanani)

If you want to talk to another person, use their handle – their Twitter name – in your tweet. This ensures that your tweet with show up in that person’s mentions. If you click on the little bell, you will see your mentions – where other people have interacted with your tweets. Every username is set up to begin with an “@” followed by a name. You can find anyone’s handle on their Twitter homepage. Please note that while it’s rare to see people change their Twitter handles (@MamaJoules), the display name associated with the account (Julie Bloss Kelsey) might change frequently.

[N]ew to haiku twitter, fingers pause long to hit tweet even when the haiku’s complete. [T]o their delight, they find poets’ support & love when they send it out . . .” – Mamathi Chari (@CMamathi) (You can read Mamathi’s full haibun here.)

Share a little about yourself. Even if you are using your account mainly to showcase your writing, the occasional post about something else that interests you is welcome. People like to know that they are following a real person, not a bot.

However . . .

Please remember that anything you tweet is public, unless you send a direct message (called a DM). You can read more on Twitter direct messages here. (Apparently, you are limited to 1,000 direct messages per day. I strongly advise against sending this many!)

Twitter seems an ideal spot for haiku, based on brevity. That said, be careful about posting too many of your fresh haiku on twitter if you plan to submit to journals, as many publications will not accept ku that have been on social media. – Roberta Beach Jacobson (@beach_haiku)

Roberta’s tweet above bears repeating: Be advised that some haiku journals consider anything appearing on social media to be published. I have found that haiku publications vary widely as to whether or not they will accept a haiku that has appeared on social media. Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. When I was first beginning to write haiku, I loved the immediate feedback and the freedom of posting what I had written without worrying about publication. On the other hand, I now have a backlog of good poems with fewer potential publications that will consider them.

In general, you can’t go wrong with republishing your previously published poetry. (Remember that some journals require attribution when you do this; others aren’t so strict.) Either way, be sure to tag the publication the work appeared in – assuming they have a Twitter account – and let them know how much you appreciate them!

Just saw this and wondered if anyone mentioned @ThePoetryPea. Patricia has been hosting a podcast on haiku for several years now. – Veronica Hosking (@HoskingPoet)    

Of course “The Haiku Reader” anthology is happy for #haiku to be nominated that has only been posted on Twitter or other social media platforms. – Alan Summers (@haikutec)

Retweet poets and poems you like. Retweeting is one of the nicest things you can do for another poet on Twitter. In general, don’t quote-retweet – that takes the focus off of the original poster and puts it on you. Just retweet their work directly so that the poet gets the kudos.

Don’t expect people to come to you – you have to go to them. Participate in the writing prompts, like & RETWEET work you enjoy, & comment every once in a while. It could make a poet’s day. It’s not about posting your masterpiece & walking away. You have to engage. – Jonathan Roman (@deft_notes)

Once you’ve found a poet or journal you like, follow them. You can also look at their following and followers lists to find other like-minded people and publications. My @MamaJoules account is a mix of science and poetry, with a smattering of parenting, politics, and fan-girling, so I may not be the best example of this. Other poets have accounts that are more haiku-focused.

I guess I can consider myself a new haiku poet again (I’ve been writing on here ten years ago but I dropped out, just now getting back into it). I just started looking through haiku tags and following people whose work I liked, and following journals for submitting eventually. – petro c. k. (@petro_ck)

Thank your followers and those who re-tweet your work. You will see a mix of how this is handled on Twitter. Some folks never acknowledge their followers, while others individually thank every follow or retweet. Personally, I think the occasional thank you is a nice touch, but I don’t recommend going overboard. When you get a handful of folks you’d like to thank, you can let them know in a single tweet that lists their Twitter handles.

Participate in Follow Friday. Another – and perhaps better – way to showcase poets you like is to suggest that others follow them. This is often done on Fridays, with the hashtag #ff or #FollowFriday.

Join in and tackle writing prompts. When responding to a writing prompt, you don’t need to tag the person who originated the prompt. Just hit reply and use the hashtag in your post. (There are some prompters who don’t want you to hit reply either because their prompts are so popular – be sure to check the rules of any prompt you try.)

Twitter was a huge part of me finding the haiku community, learning to write, how to navigate publishing poems, etc – but first I found the Twitter writing community by responding to prompts and doing @Slam_Words. I workshop mostly in my DMs with other poets. – Pippa Phillips (@IpsaHerself)

When I asked the Twitter haiku community for their suggestions on writing prompts, I received a number of responses. The #HaikuChallenge from @baffled – mentioned below by two poets – was the first prompt I ever participated in and has been around for years.

There are a few to consider, but I would go with @PromptBrat aka @IpsaHerself, who puts out some cool and varied prompts. Also @HaikuSeed_ does some great polished work with their prompts. #SciFaiKuSaturday is run by @HawkandYoung & @_Irene_Dreams_ but I would also urge people to write haiku for non-haiku specific prompts who welcome all styles of participation. This helps to engage with people beyond the haiku community & also promote it. Some good ones are #vss365, @10wordjournal, @WhistprPrompt & many more. – Jonathan Roman (@deft_notes)

#5wordspoet is another good one. – GregS (@freginold_JS)

Don’t forget possibly the first good haiku prompter: @baffled. It got me writing in different ways for #haiku. – Call of the Page (@allabouthaiku)

I’ve used #haikuchallenge and #haikuforthesoul, and I use these general prompts for haiku when it comes to me: #vsspoem, #flexVSS, #vssdaily, #vssnature – petro c. k. (@petro_ck)

Follow conference hashtags. This can be fun if you are interested in an event where people are live-tweeting and a number of folks have converged on a specific hashtag. If you go to your search page on Twitter and type in the hashtag, you can watch posts from the conference pop up in real time as people tweet. For example, several of us were tweeting during Haiku North America 2021, using the hashtag #HNA2021. (When I can, I try to live tweet at writing conferences. It is challenging to summarize what the presenters are saying in tweet format, but I like the idea of sharing that content with a wider audience.) Following hashtags is one way to join in the fun of a conference or gathering even if you can’t attend the live event yourself.

In true Twitter fashion, poet John Hawkhead (@HawkheadJohn) summarized his best haiku Twitter tips for you in a single tweet:

  1. Follow other haiku poets

  2. Post your haiku and ask for feedback

  3. Like and comment on work you appreciate

  4. Share related genres (e.g. #art) and draw parallels

  5. Be kind

With regard to feedback, if you want feedback on your poems, be sure to ask for it in your tweets. You most likely won’t get any critiques if you don’t ask. However, the responses you get back may or may not be helpful. Remember, anyone with a Twitter account can reply. Be sure to consider the words of any critic with a careful eye. And if anyone discounts your work outright, please beware that there are trolls online who live to rile people up. Don’t let them discourage you! The audio warnings for riders on my favorite childhood roller coaster apply to Twitter too: “Hold on tight and have fun!”

You can probably tell that Twitter is one of my favorite places to engage with haiku! I hope these suggestions help you to use Twitter more effectively. If you have any questions (or corrections), please let me know in the comments, or come find me on Twitter.

Haiku hugs to John Kelsey, Susan Burch, and Jonathan Roman for proof-reading this for me. Any remaining errors are mine. My thanks to the following haiku poets who shared their thoughts with me via Twitter and kindly agreed to let me repost their words:

 

We’d love to hear from you in the comments. The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy for more information.

Julie Bloss Kelsey is the current Secretary of The Haiku Foundation. She started writing haiku in 2009, after discovering science fiction haiku (scifaiku). She lives in Maryland with her husband and kids. Julie's first book of poetry, The Call of Wildflowers, is available for free online through Title IX Press. Connect with her on Twitter @MamaJoules.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Dear Julie,
    Thank you for this! Such a great explanation of how exciting this can be, esp. for beginners in haiku. As a dinosaur who can’t keep up with emails and texts I loved hearing about how this actually works for haiku writers…what fun!
    Mimi

  2. Like Vandana, I haven’t taken to Twitter and rarely check in. I frequent a few haiku / poetry groups on Facebook, which seems less frenetic, less fierce, and where it’s easier to find stuff. And a couple of forums online. I suppose that dates me….. Life is getting shorter and I have enough calls on time!

    But an interesting article, well put together if I may say so. Thanks, Julie.

  3. A great article, Julie. I don’t much like Twitter and find its UI not very friendly, but after reading your article, I see ut in a different light.
    A very informative and helpful article. Thanks a million for this.

  4. Great article Julie, really helpful and easy to navigate.

    I recommend following Greg Schwartz ( @freginold_JS ) who has a Pinned Tweet with a link to his blogspot with a list of haiku websites, contests and blogs with submission dates that should be useful to newcomers.

  5. Great ideas, especially for non-Twitterers debating whether to take the Twitter plunge!

    See also perhaps the following 2005 (!) Wall Street Journal feature by Phred Dvorak:

    “The Cellphone Poets Of Tokyo Marry Tech, Tanka and Tradition: Tiny Screens Are Just Right For 31 Syllables in 5 Lines Dashed Off on the Run”

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB112837716093258879

    1. Thanks Richard!

      I’m not a Wall Street Journal reader alas, but I did find this:

      “For years, Ayano Iida used e-mail on her cell phone mainly to tap out quick messages to friends like “Let’s get together tomorrow.”

      But these days, Ms. Iida’s mobile is spouting out heartfelt verse like this: “The guy who I liked/second-best, was second-rate/in the school that he/went to; and also in his/performance between the sheets.”
      Ms. Iida, 26 years old, is one of a growing number of young Japanese using mobile phones to write and exchange tanka, an ancient form of unrhymed poetry whose roots reach back at least 1,300 years. Scores of tanka home pages and bulletin boards are popping up on cell phone Internet sites with names like Palm-of-the-Hand Tanka and Teenage Tanka.

      Japan’s national public broadcaster airs a weekly show called Saturday Night Is Cellphone Tanka, which gets about 3,000 poems e-mailed from listeners’ mobiles each week on topics like parental nagging and the boy in the next class.

      Tanka, literally “short song,” is thought to have first emerged around the eighth century. It is composed of 31 syllables arranged in a rigid, five-line pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. It’s big on archaic words and has long been associated with high culture.”
      https://journalrecord.com/2005/10/05/poets-using-cell-phones-to-share-tanka/

      and
      https://mleddy.blogspot.com/2005/10/cell-tanka.html

      Wow “3,000 poems e-mailed from listeners’ mobiles each week”!

      Cool!

  6. Many thanks Julie, I would like to share my twitter handle that I recently set up to share my poetry and artwork, it is @harps4peace

  7. Wonderful feature, Julie! 🙂

    I remember when Twitter was only 140 characters and nothing else, and haiku poets were the few that did not struggle with that number of letters & spaces! 🙂

    Alan

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