“Walt FML Whitman” by Mark Sample

Screen capture from "Walt FML Whitman" by Mark Sample. Walt FML Whitman home twitter page with two tweets at the bottom. Text: "The young sister holds out the skein, the elder sister winds it off in a ball and / sent them a request on accident #FML" "Well I was supposed to compete at Del Oro tomorrow, but thanks to stupid / shin splints and the plank is thrown for the shoregoing passengers"
Open “Walt FML Whitman” by Mark Sample

This poetic mashup Twitter bot places Walt Whitman in conversation with contemporary people expressing their frustrations in social networks. To be precise, he repurposes Darius Kazemi’s “Latour Swag” code to remix two different Twitter sources: @TweetsOfGrass and original tweets with the #fml hashtag.

Screen capture from the Walt Whitman twitter homepage with to tweets at the bottom. Text: "And such as it is to be these more or less I am." "And these one and all tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them."

This account sends tweet-sized portions of Whitman’s 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass from beginning to end, over and over. The tweets are made several times per day on an irregular schedule (occasionally missing a day), which along with the careful coherence of each tweet (Whitman’s long lines don’t fit in Twitter’s 140 character constraint) suggests that this is a human-powered endeavor, not a bot.

The Twitter #fml (an abbreviation for “Fuck My Life”) trend is huge, inspiring thousands to post short snippets of frustration every hour.

Screen capture from various miscellaneous tweets. Text: "Just realized I didn't sign up for the black ops tourney #fml" "No chocolate chips for my pancakes.. sad day in America / #FML" "OH SWEET MOTHER OF JESUS MY BEST GUY FRIEND OF / LIKE TWO YEARS TOLD ME HE LIKED ME #fml #Whyyy / #ButIJustAh" "Yep that's how it goes smh RT @shawnierocket: Shouldve / stuck my dr..... noooo I thought he was too nerdy #fml" "Kate Middleton with her baby bumps is me on a "skinny day" / #FML"

Part of the appeal of the trend is that to craft a short phrase that effectively captures an FML moment is an art in and of itself. This is a compelling constraint that leads people to focus on the poetic function of language to produce what are essentially monostich poems.

It is therefore entirely appropriate to remix these tweets with lines by a poet who “contained multitudes” and wrote “In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barleycorn less, / And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them” in Song of Myself. The results are surprisingly lyrical and gently uplifting, as the self-deprecating humor of the tweets combine with Whitman’s positivity, earthiness, and musicality.

Is Whitman a cure for the #FML attitude?

Featured in Genre: Bot

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