“What’s Happening?”; or, the Faux Social Finish of Verb People

To twitter is indeed to sound off like a bird. “No full sentence really completes a thought,” said Hugh Kenner, in The Pound Era (1971), throwing a rock into several generations of roosting English grammar teachers: “And though we may string never so many clauses into a single compound sentence, motion leaks everywhere, like electricity from an exposed wire. All processes in nature are inter-related” (157). This from the “Knot and Vortex” chapter, where Kenner introduces the “self-interfering pattern,” using Buckminster Fuller’s sliding knot illustration: “The knot is a patterned integrity. The rope renders it visible” (145).

Social networking as experienced via Twitter or Facebook allows for no stillness. One is always in flight. One is not a noun; as Buckminster Fuller said, “I seem to be a verb.” Nouns represent dead flight, the verb at rest in its grammatical nest: “The eye sees noun and verb as one, things in motion, motion in things,” explains Kenner (157).

Verbs have no permanency. What’s happening must constantly change. Twitter is a rush of tweets each jolting the flock to flight, while posts on Facebook fall down the page like crumbs from a plate at a reception. Nothing is saved because in the social network world there are no nouns. The text is a mirage, the words constantly falling, falling down, down feathers falling through the electric light.

Ezra Pound’s short poem “In a Station of the Metro” is a perfect tweet: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd; / Petals on a wet, black bough.” The short poem with title fills the tweet space with 40 characters to spare, fixes the stare of twitterers but momentarily, as the faces can only pause in apparition not even of ink, but of light, and the social connection is a faux finish. People are verbs, constantly changing tense.


  1. Twitter would have been perfect for Pound when he was in his self-imposed ten year silence.

    “People are verbs, constantly changing tense.”….exceptional line!!!


    1. Joe Linker says:

      And I’ve wondered too what John Cage would have done with Facebook and Twitter. Imagine a tweet or two from Buckminster Fuller, or McLuhan: “The medium is the massage.”


  2. tinadot says:

    Well here is what I find particularly addictive about a social media site like facebook or twitter….when I have a thought or come across something I really want to show people….the fact that on fb I have access to X of people in an instant or the same on twitter makes me keep on going back on posting things and interacting. And people interact back, people you know and can identify. It’s sort of the same with blogs I guess.
    I think, however, that it’s a fallacy to examine social media through the lens of academia from a totally different age.


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Probably a mistake to examine anything through the lens of academia, but new things change old things, even the meaning of old things.


      1. tinadot says:

        Lol, very true


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