Margaret Rhee, Pt. 1: Meditate and everything

For each day of National Poetry Month one of our fellows will explore the breadth of poetry in three ways: through a question from another fellow, through a poem and through a writing prompt, #writetoday.



April Naoko Heck asks:

Respond to one: social media is good for my poetic creativity or social media is not good for my poetic creativity.

Margaret Rhee responds, 

I’m inclined not to answer yes or no to the question, as I’m still exploring whether social media is good for my poetic creativity. But I’ve been fascinated and inspired by the ways contemporary poets work with the limitations and possibilities of social media formally.
How enjambments shift according to the 140 characters as a tweet, for example. And how space in a poem or within the constraints of interface has meaning. Poets doing real interesting work on social media that I’ve been following include Ron Villanueva and the rapper Lyrics Born. I love Ron’s sonnet, Fossils, at Twitter very much.
I teach Asian American reading and writing at UC Berkeley, and actually taught Lyrics Born’s #YesBayArea as a core text. The students really loved the collection and writing on twitter as a pedagogical practice. It was a great introduction to experimental poetry as well. 
Experimenting with twitter and other social media as poetic and pedagogical experiments has been fruitful. I think it’s important for poets not to dismiss the intersections of technology and poetry and instead look at the possibilities, while remaining critical. It’s a juxtaposition we have to hold.  
While we need to be cautious of the limitations of technology, of course, (I’m thinking of the not very thoughtful MOCCS in creative writing for example) there are always fascinating ways technology can converge with poetry. As Ron Villanueva’s work and others illuminate, some really beautiful lines emerge from social networking site. Lines not intended by the designers, but historically, artists have always reimagined the possibilities of technology. 
Right now, I’m working on completing my manuscript of robot love poems, and interestingly enough, I’ve found I can only write them online. When writing poems, I tend to write longhand and on paper, but for these robot love poemas, for some reason, the Internet as interface inspires my writing. Perhaps I’m communicating love with my OS. Perhaps she is writing them. 


Love, Robot

For Dmitry

I liked to watch you shower because you closed

your eyes in the water and slightly parted your

mouth. How I envied you while I brushed my

teeth and saw how alive you were even just

cleaning yourself. So mundane everything

about me. And how present you were, the

mirror steaming up, covering my face. I told a

robotics poet this story and he said I know how

you can have that too. Meditate and everything,

even the crumbled leaves on the sidewalk will

be alive. Now, the gusts of wind carefully cradle

my face. I feel my breath through my mouth

down my throat into my fleshy pink insides. I

am ready to try. We made a robot together, one

that walked with a slight limp. It only took a

slight press with the soft parts of my fingers to

make her blink red. A sharp twist of copper

wires to make her hum. An algorithm to make

her stay still as I slowly turned on the faucet.

She wanted to turn away but I coaxed my robot

not to be afraid of the water. To open her

mouth. To let everything rinse away by the

spark of electric light.

Previously published in Mission At Tenth: Inter-arts Journal



Margaret Rhee is a poet, scholar, and digital educator.