Individual Work

Ranjit Bhatnagar’s “Pentametron” is a series of generative crowdsourced poetry that are collected through social media text posts. The piece consists of lines, or “tweets”, gathered by a bot that filters through posts from the social media platform, Twitter, that fall under the form of iambic pentameter. Using the Twitter handle, @Pentametron, a bot filters through one line tweets in iambic pentameter from twitter users and pairs them with another line from a different user upon detecting a rhyme in order to create a rhyming couplet. The Twitter account was created in March 2012. The Pentametron Twitter account can be found through this link here where Twitter users can follow and read the couplets in real time (although there has not been new activity coming from the account since January 2020). Non-Twitter users can also look at the content through the Twitter website, although they would not be able to interact with any of the content. Readers can also find the collection of the couplets through the link here with any mobile or computer device.
Through the Twitter application or through the website, users/readers with Twitter accounts can interact with the piece by liking, replying, retweeting, quoting, or sharing the tweets (all of which are normal functions being offered by the platform). Some may even have their tweets/posts chosen to be a part of a couplet, as long as they follow the form of iambic pentameter. This specific piece itself already requires interaction and activity from Twitter users, as the bot doesn’t actually create the tweets itself; the bot is only incharge of collecting tweets and pairing them with another that rhymes and retweeting them. “Pentametron” is pretty well received by the public, with the account garnering over 20 thousand followers. Bhatnagar even published a book in September 2018 entitled, Encomials: Sonnets from Pentametron which consists of selected tweets that were generated by the bot and polished by Bhatnagar to form modern day sonnets. Although majority of the work is being done by the bot and by the Twitter users who might have unknowingly posted their thoughts in iambic pentameter, Bhatnagar deserves to be given a lot of credit for coming up with the idea to modernize sonnets by using a social media platform where individuals express random thoughts and ideas in their day-to-day lives. The work engages very well with new media as it engages with the social media users by developing the thoughts and posts they shared through there into a piece of art.
The couplets being produced don’t always complement the rest of the pairs enough for it to be considered a cohesive sonnet, there’s a sense of creativity that gets put onto the readers to interpret and make the lines fit the narrative they choose. Although this specific piece is not as ergodic as other forms of electronic literature, there is a sense of accomplishment for the readers to make sense of the random pairs of rhymes.
I personally found the work to be very intriguing and innovative. The piece did a very great job at incorporating new media with older forms of literature. We usually associate sonnets with Shakespearean language or older poems about love that might be too difficult to understand because they’re usually written in Old English, but this form of delivery, through using modern language, the concept of sonnets are somewhat modernized and revived into another thing. I visited both the Twitter account as well as the archived collection from Electronic Literature Collection, both of which were free, however, I found it easier to navigate the archived collection rather than the Twitter account because the Twitter account was more cluttered. I found that this piece finds beauty and poetry in people’s random thoughts and in their day to day lives which is, in itself, quite poetic as well.

*The following pictures below are taken from the archived collection from Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3 as well as the Twitter account for Pentametron*

The links can also be found here – Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3 – Twitter (@Pentametron) – Encomials: Sonnets from Pentametron

This entry was written for Dani Spinosa’s class ENGL 4309H: Digital Adventures in English at Trent University in February 2022.

Author statement: 
Pentametron follows on my earlier projects with crowdsourced poetry, inspired by the Oulipo and Surrealist games. The Exquisite Sonnet Project (1992) worked with USENET to coordinate collaborative sonnets, and then Twitter for the Brooklyn Museum in 2009. As a sound artist who studied some linguistics, I'm interested in language as a material for fabricating new kinds of art.