“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.