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Social Advocacy & Politics: The Poetry of Politics

In response to suspicions that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was responsible for the delay of the immigration bill vote, Representative Jim Himes (D-CT4) tweeted a poem to Cruz:

Sittin' at my desk,

Watchin' the news,

Rest of the day

Is up to Ted Cruz.

I have often turned to poetry for tweet content. When confronted by comments in my trainings that it is difficult to say anything meaningful in 140 characters, I typically responded that I love haikus and that you can describe the universe in a haiku. I also explain that I have counted characters in hundreds of haikus and never found one over 80 characters (our intern recently took this challenge and composed a 141 character haiku using very consonant-laden words… but it was very difficult). The point is if you can describe the universe with 80 characters in a haiku, then imagine what you can do with 140 characters.

After saying this at several trainings, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and launched @HaikuProgress. There I tweet about politics and policy with a progressive viewpoint all in haiku. And if someone else tweets similarly using the #ProgHaiku hashtag, I will retweet them (I go through phases paying attention to this account, depending on my workload elsewhere).

I have found that it is relatively easy to craft a haiku along these themes and that the novelty of using verse to make a point often works well. In fact, using poetry to convey a political viewpoint or social value can be more powerful than straight prose. Art has a long history of shaping public values and leveraging art in social media communications seems to be a good tactic.

So as Jim Himes is tweeting poetry to Ted Cruz this week, he joins me (among others?) who has also tweeted verse to Mr. Versus, Ted Cruz:


Davis protects rights / In a real filibuster / Cruz just wastes a day... #proghaiku

— haikuprogress (@haikuprogress) September 30, 2013

Try your hand at some Twitter poetry and see how it works for you. Report back here on your successes (and failures).

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