MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And now it's time for Muses and Metaphor. That's our ode to National Poetry Month. All through April we are featuring original tweet-length poems, 140 characters or less, delivered by Twitter and written by NPR listeners and, new this year, some of our regular contributors.
Today, we are hearing from two of our regular Beauty Shop contributors. Bridget Johnson is the Washington, D.C. editor of PJ Media. That's a conservative libertarian news and commentary site. Mikki Kendall is a writer and pop culture critic with HoodFeminism.com. Welcome, ladies. Thank you for joining us on this little different assignment for you.
BRIDGET JOHNSON: Awesome. Thanks for having us.
MIKKI KENDALL: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: Now, Bridget Johnson, are you normally a poet, a private poet, secret poet?
JOHNSON: And I don't know it. Well, you know, I kind of think of poetry as kind of Jo in "Little Women" where it's like if you do what you know, then it sounds OK. But if you try and, you know, go off and become some sort of, you know, great romantic poet and that's not really in you, then it looks kind of weird, so.
MARTIN: But you were up to the challenge, and we appreciate that. And you've actually been kind of going strong tweeting on #TMMPoetry. Did you enjoy it? Did you - you rose to the challenge. But was it fun for you?
JOHNSON: I did enjoy it, yes. Yes, it was good times.
MARTIN: Was it hard? Did you find the 140 character limit difficult?
JOHNSON: Not too much because, you know, you try to not be too wordy anyways as a journalist. So, you know, you kind of keep it compact and keep it to one thought and...
MARTIN: OK. Oh, good. So you were a natural. Mikki, what about you? Are you a secret poet, too?
KENDALL: I am the kind of poet who writes things and then puts them away.
MARTIN: So you're going to take a risk here and expose your private poetry process. So what was your process, Mikki? How did you decide what to write about? How do you normally decide?
KENDALL: So I actually tend to sort of stumble on things that sound good. I write longer-form fiction, and I'm used to searching for a good turn of phrase, a way to say something that sounds new and interesting, which ties in well with poetry. It's just that 140 characters was perfect for me because I can come up with a good sentence or two. I just can't come up with five stanzas.
MARTIN: OK. Well, so you liked the format? That worked - it worked for you.
KENDALL: Yes. Yes.
MARTIN: All right, so now is the moment that we have been waiting for. Drum roll please. Bridget, do you want to start?
JOHNSON: (Imitating drum roll). OK.
MARTIN: OK, read one of yours. Just one 'cause we know you've been going strong so just pick one.
JOHNSON: Recess, oh, sweet recess, House and Senate gone. Time to play, so much to do, ghost riding the whip down Constitution Ave.
MARTIN: OK, so that was very much on your mind, referring to the congressional recess. Very nice.
MARTIN: OK, Mikki, what about you?
KENDALL: West African soil, Delta roots, Midwest branches and leaves that shade the world. Blood journeys through the ages.
MARTIN: Wow. What was the inspiration for that?
KENDALL: Actually, I've been doing a family genealogy project.
MARTIN: Oh, wonderful. Wonderful. Very vivid. OK. So you've also been following the submissions on Twitter. And, Mikki, do you want to share a poem that caught your attention?
KENDALL: Sure. I was trying to find someone who hadn't been called out before. And I really like Dr. Mania. @PrettyLittleLion is the Twitter handle. Hot coals burning, no flames, no showmanship. When it rains, we still are smoking, smoldering, sparking Jane with kin.
MARTIN: Oh, nice. I like it. What struck you about it?
KENDALL: It's one of those poems where you have to pause and really think about the imagery. That's what I generally like if I'm reading a poem. I want something that really makes me imagine what they're talking about and so I can see a vivid picture in my mind.
MARTIN: I agree. I agree. I think it is, it sticks with you. It sticks to your ribs.
MARTIN: Bridget, what about you?
JOHNSON: So I kind of latched onto what appeared to me to be the youngest person who was tweeting. And she only had one tweet on her account, too. So it looks like she started it to do #TMMPoetry. And her name was Jazmine Palacios, Twitter handle @raddjaz. And she did, fireflies twinkle like Christmas lights glowing among the darkness, alone forever, but let there be light.
MARTIN: Very nice. Very nice.
JOHNSON: And that that kind of made me think it was the first time I ever saw a firefly was when I moved out here from the West coast.
MARTIN: How about that. Really?
JOHNSON: I was like what is that?
MARTIN: Yeah. Very nice. Well, thank you both for doing this. Can you each give some advice for people who still aren't ready to, you know, take that plunge. Mikki, do you have some advice for people who might want to get started?
KENDALL: Start with writing - just write a sentence. Don't worry about it rhyming. Don't worry about meter - any of the things they're going to teach you in school. Just start with being able to describe something.
MARTIN: OK. Bridget, what about you? Thoughts?
JOHNSON: Start writing without worrying if people are going to see it on the Twitter verse, and just - and just let it flow. And then once you start to feel what is appropriate or, you know, what you are proud to show the rest of the world, then that'll come naturally.
MARTIN: I can put you on the spot 'cause you've both been so good about keeping to Twitter length that we actually have time for one or two more poems. Is there another poem, either of yours or someone else's, that you would like to share? Bridget, do you have one?
JOHNSON: Well, you know, like I said, I was kind of sticking to what I know. So, you know, one Saturday night when I was up very, very late, I was inspired to write, with 60 percent voter turnout, 65 percent male, 35 percent female, brave Afghans turn Taliban plans into a great colossal fail.
MARTIN: OK. Well, here's another of yours that I like. It's dear to my heart. And this is one of Bridget Johnson's. Legs ache after day of running around the hill. Got to give credit where credit is due. Nancy Pelosi does this in Jimmy Choos. I thought that was right on time. Mikki, what about you? Do you have one more that you'd like to share, either yours or someone else's?
KENDALL: Yes, this one is someone else's, Juana Sullivan Jansen (ph). If there is something out there that gives me light, please do not find it, for the darkness fills me up and makes me whole.
MARTIN: Wow, I like that.
MARTIN: What struck you about it?
KENDALL: I'm so about the imagery. But it was a warm - it's not a darkness to be afraid of. It's a darkness to welcome and be comforted by.
MARTIN: There's so many - there have been so many great - these wonderful kind of just images that you can kind of toss round. You know, it's almost like a mint that you can kind of carry around with you kind of dissolving slowly and enjoying throughout the day. It's just a kind of a word snack.
KENDALL: Yeah, you just scroll through.
MARTIN: I love it. Well, thank you both so much. Mikki Kendall is a writer and pop culture critic for HoodFeminism.com. She joined us from member station WBEZ in Chicago. Bridget Johnson is the Washington, D.C. editor for PJ Media. She joined us in our Washington, D.C. studios. They're two of our Beauty Shop regulars, and they are joining us for our Twitter poetry series. Thank you, ladies. Thank you so much.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Michel.
KENDALL: Thank you.
MARTIN: And we still would like to hear from you. Tweet us your poems. They have to be 140 characters or less using the hashtag #TMMPoetry. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.