Oct 15 2011

Birth of a new genre

Did you blink? Did you miss it? If you’ve been participating in online social networks over the past four or five years, you’ve witnessed the birth of a new literary genre. This new genre is a subset of poetry (no, don’t stop reading yet, you’ll like this poetry), akin to the haiku or limerick. Like those two forms of poetry, this new genre has a specific form to follow and restrictions, but not a precise metered one like haiku or rhythm and rhyme like limericks. Thanks to the popularity of networks like Twitter and Facebook, this new genre has exploded in popularity, and most everyone has written one already.

What is this new form of poetry? I am coining a new term here and now: minipistle (like “epistle”, but with “mini” on the front).  As you know, an epistle is essentially a synonym for a letter. These new poems take the form of a letter, but are extremely short. They follow this typical format:

Dear [inanimate object or person unlikely to actually read this letter],
[The message you need to understand, or action you need to take].
Love, [author or subject-by-proxy].

This tweet follows the form precisely. Author: John Roderick via Twitter

You can see from this first example a tweet that typifies this new form of poetry. The author of the minipistle is represented as “The Future,” not Roderick himself speaking, and he (the future) is writing a letter to “America” (obviously, the people of America, not the country itself). The author is trying to convey that when people view “being stupid and ignorant” as an authentic expression of self, it is detrimental to the health of society when compared to “being smart and educated.” This may seem to be like overanalysis of something so short, but seriously, this is longer than most haikus, and yet our students study those for a week or two in school, no?

Here’s a variation:

This tweet leaves out the "Love, author" part, implying that the minipistle is actually being sent on behalf of the author himself.

In this call-to-action variation, you can see that there is no “Love, so-and-so,” meaning that in this case, Mike Cope himself is the one who wishes to convey the message to the TBS announcers.

In another similar variation, the “author” of the minipistle is neither the actual author or a subject proxy, but instead, the content of a news program:

Molly Wood's tweet uses the minipistle to essentially describe the content of a blog post.

Your next question is likely, “Dear Ryan, So What? Love, Me.” My question to you is this: how can we, as educators, use this new ubiquitous form of poetry that 99% of our students are familiar with in order to produce understanding in the classroom? When producing a minipistle, the author must condense a relatively substantial message into a very brief space. In Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive development, this type of writing fits in to the “Synthesis/Analysis” area, meaning it requires higher order thinking. How about using minipistles to convey the dramatic irony of literature: “Dear Romeo, Meet me in the chapel. Not really dead. Love, Juliet.” Or what about using minipistles to communicate lessons from history: “Dear 1922, Communism’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Love, Russia 1991.” Or even concepts of geometry: “Dear Arc, You complete me. Love, Circle.”

If you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed the greatest new form of poetry to evolve in your lifetime. Watch for it, try it out and write a few. Assign your students to write some minipistles in the classroom. In the comments below, I dare you to only respond to my blog post using your own minipistles.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.edtechfor.me/2011/10/minipistles/

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