“Black Twitter Is The Internet At Its Best” (a villanelle)

“The following alert is not a test”,
The TV said–We knew that they were wrong:
(Black twitter is the Internet at its best.)

When ranks of cops, in riot gear were dressed,
They tried to quell the crowd with this strange song:
“The following alert is not a test!

We urge you to comply with our request!”
“Request”? A lie, but not for long:
Black twitter is the Internet at its best.

The propaganda leaves us unimpressed—
A fading view they’re trying to prolong–
“The following alert is not a test”

But… yes, it is; it measures the unrest,
The inability to “play along”…
Black twitter is the Internet at its best

Black twitter sees the marchers, ten abreast,
As canisters of tear gas hit the throng…
The following alert is not a test:
Black twitter is the Internet at its best

I’ve seen references to “black twitter” at the NY Times, CNN, NPR, and more–but more than that, on my own twitter stream, before Ferguson came close to cable TV or mainstream news. I would not have known to look for mainstream stories were it not for twitter–more specifically, black twitter (and really, do you think there would have been much mainstream coverage without the protests?). When the shit hits the fan, twitter has shown itself to be astonishingly useful (admittedly, an hour or two after the shit hits the fan, Twitter becomes a cesspool).

Anyone who is relying only on network coverage of Ferguson is getting a very different picture from the one coming in real time from actual witnesses. It’s astonishing, really–same planet, different worlds.


  1. says

    Here’s more Black Twitter.
    I also did a blog roundup of Ferguson stories. The first link here is to a HuffPo article dealing with Black Twitter.
    I didn’t realize it was a thing. I thought it was an unofficial nickname.

    On an unrelated note: I wish I knew what tempo to recite some of your poetry in. Some of your stuff is obvious, but some stuff, like this post, I have no clue.

  2. Cuttlefish says

    I thought it was an unofficial nickname too!

    Re: the unrelated note–This particular verse is a villanelle, which (to my ear, anyway) have the peculiar quality of never sounding right no matter how you read them. “Do not go gentle…” is the best-known (and best) villanelle I am aware of, but even that always sounds awkward to me when read; this form almost seems more an exercise in rule-following (indeed, it spawned an official parody, the paradelle, which is intentionally ridiculous and rule-driven). To make matters worse, I usually (I can think of one exception) write my villanelles in iambic pentameter (there is no requirement of meter for the form), but the word “internet” itself is a dactyl, which throws off the line–and in a villanelle, throwing off one line means throwing of something that is repeated a lot.

    Bottom line is, if this particular verse had read smoothly to your ear, there would be something wrong with you.

  3. Cuttlefish says

    busterggi, if I had even the slightest artistic talent, I would sooo make that happen…

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