Tweets Like a Love Bird
by Michael Hessel-Mial
Michael Hessel-Mial is changing the macro poetry game with his latest effort, Tweets Like a Love Bird. These poems, infused with a hip hop mentality, and combined with flarf comedic timing, present love in a way which makes one question what the idea of love is. Combining himself, as well as stock images, the collection is a kaleidoscope reflecting the online love affairs.
What first struck me was the rhythm of these pieces. I kept reading them in a sort of hip hop rhythm reminiscent of the early 90’s, mixed with the flow of Kanye West, with lines like ‘greatest poet alive / raw words no rubbers / illest on the net. This makes the entire piece fun to read; I was imagining the pieces read live with a sample underneath, and the images in the macro constituting the music video. As I was reading it and getting lost in the rhythm, I realised that I had already finished it in one sitting thoroughly enjoying myself.
The late 90’s hip hop feel also makes these pieces feel instantly nostalgic. I was reminiscing times in my youth, talking to people over MSN messenger, and listening to cheesy hip hop on windows media player. The nostalgia only helps to draw the reader into the poems, and although the pieces feel random at first, it’s clear to see as you keep reading that everything in these pieces are thought out and deliberate.
What this internet, nostalgic rhythm also does is give the poems a comedic timing. Each macro feels like a small joke. The rhyming is purposefully over the top, and the lines have the cadence of a stand up comedian. This is another technique that helps to break the ice for the reader, and brings them inside the pieces and asks them ‘why are you still reading?’ and ‘what does this mean to you?’. Again, this is nothing but deliberate and concise, with every word placed with expert precision.
What is also interesting to notice is that despite the ‘meme’ format, the flarf timing, and the hip hop rhythms and tropes, is that these macros have a real heart to them. The line “nostrils sore from the ashes of a heartbreak & I still can’t help indulging a couple lines” is resonating, and in it’s use of cliche is able to revive and instil this cliche with a strong image. These poems have taken time and effort; they aren’t just a spur of the moment idea. There is a deliberation to these pieces, and a real effort to convey meaning within the poetics of the macro poem.
The use of the stock images here, for me, seems to be irony aware that it is irony. It is breaking down the idea of 1+1=love, while at the same time seemingly begging for a connection. Stock faces, lines that sound like hip hop, memes; this is the soundtrack to a digital age love affair, one whose identities are hard to determine. The use of stock photos here is genius; for in the age of blogs and social media, our own identity is as replaceable and malleable as a stock photo.
As suggested earlier, reading these macros in one sitting, start to finish, is the best way to approach the work. What happens is that the ridiculous nature of the pieces diminishes. They stop becoming memes, and the cliches stop becoming cliches. These pieces develop a rhythm and a voice of their own. If you open up to them, these poems will open up to you.