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Hip-Hop Dreams Lead To Penning Poetry


And now it's time for Muses and Metaphor. That is our ode to National Poetry Month. All through April, we're featuring original tweet-length poems - that's 140 characters or less delivered by Twitter and written by NPR listeners mostly, but also new this year, some of our regular contributors.

On Friday, we hosted a Twitter chat about the series with writer and hip-hop artist MK Asante and Chicago poet Malcolm London. You can see that conversation if you missed it by searching the hashtag #TMMPoetry. But today, Laura Martinez and Michael Skolnik join us to share their Twitter poems. They are regular contributors to the Beauty Shop and Barbershop. Welcome back, both of you.


LAURA MARTINEZ: Thanks for having us.

HEADLEE: So both of you already tweet pretty regularly and write regularly, usually about news and pop culture though. So, Laura, was it harder to write a poem?

MARTINEZ: Totally hard. I mean, I'm not a poet - a poetry writer at all. But what I loved about this experience was the possibility to play with a bilingual poem, which is pretty much what would define all my tweets.

HEADLEE: Right. And we're going to hear your poem in just a moment. But, Michael, what about you - harder to write about the news and politics or the poem?

SKOLNIK: Well, as a kid who grew up in hip-hop, I dreamed of one day being a rapper and I never had the skills to write poetry as well as some of the greats. So to even put 140 characters into some poetic sense was quite challenging.

HEADLEE: Well, let's hear the poems. Laura, can you share your poem?



MARTINEZ: OK. Me quiere. No me quiere. He loves me. He loves me not. Pondering this and other things over a margarita. The flower. Not the drink.

HEADLEE: So let's talk a little bit about that poem. Did you have to edit it down to 140 characters? Did you have way more than that?

MARTINEZ: No. Not at all. Not at all. And what I liked about it is that when people in this country - I am from Mexico - when people hear the word margarita, they would think of the drink. And as some of you might know, a margarita is a daisy, and it's a flower that you use to - I don't know - pluck the petals and wonder if you've been loved or not.

HEADLEE: All right. So, Michael, let's hear your poem.

SKOLNIK: Sure. Martin Richard. Eight years on earth. No more hurting people. Peace. Rest in peace. Boston, stay strong. Love, New York.

HEADLEE: And why choose this subject? That's a heavy subject for 140 characters.

SKOLNIK: Well, a year ago today marks the anniversary of the Boston bombing. And it was a traumatic experience for folks in Boston, of course, but everyone across this country. I stayed up almost for 48 hours covering that story. My son was quite young at the time. He's now 1 years old.

And I was reflecting this morning on the young boy, Martin Richard, who lost his life and held that sign, that sort of image that we saw after his death of one saying no more hurting people. Peace. Such a powerful sign of a young man who lost his life way too soon. And as a New Yorker - and we often, you know, like to antagonize our friends in Boston and they antagonize us over sports and things of superficial like that. But on a day like today, I wanted to make sure that they knew that we're thinking of them and that we love them and that we hope they get through the day.

HEADLEE: I wonder, for both of you, one of the big limitations here is the brevity, right? So, Laura, what's the benefit of writing this short a poem do you think?

MARTINEZ: I mean, I think it's that you have to be super creative. And I love to play with language, as I said. And, for example, I go on the net collecting very brief sentences that attract me because there's so much you can do with language that the shorter the space, the more challenging but the more beautiful things you can say.

HEADLEE: And, Michael, what do you think? Is there a benefit to writing this short a message?

SKOLNIK: I think some of the greatest poets are those who write haikus. And those are very challenging to write. That's what's great about short form, even what's good about Twitter, is that I look at Twitter as an art, not just as a place to share what I'm eating or what I'm doing or where I'm going on the weekend, but as an art to perfect 140 characters. I might spend an hour on one tweet just looking at it and trying to perfect every single word within that 140 characters. And that to me is really enjoyable because of the challenge.

HEADLEE: So what advice, Laura, would you give to a listener getting ready to write their own Twitter poem?

MARTINEZ: Just write from your heart. Write from your heart. Really, I cannot say anything else. I kind of - I struggled a lot because usually I am known for, like, write funny, and this was not really funny. So it was hard for me not to be funny, if that makes any sense.


MARTINEZ: One from one of the submissions that I liked, it's by @declarativehill. And it says, I don't understand chemistry, he said. Ours, he clarified.

HEADLEE: Laura Martinez is a senior editor for CNET in Espanol. Michael Skolnik is editor-in-chief of GlobalGrind.com. That's a news and entertainment site founded by Russell Simmons. They both joined us from our bureau in New York. Thanks to both of you.

SKOLNIK: Thank you.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

HEADLEE: And we still want to hear from you. Tweet us your poems. They have to be 140 characters or less, and then use the hashtag #TMMPoetry. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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