From Iceland — The Longest Poem in the World

The Longest Poem in the World

Published September 8, 2009

Three hundred and fifty thousand, seven hundred and fourteen verses. Twenty lines per verse, and every line rhymes with the following one.

That’s how long Andrei Gheorghe’s poem is. It’s almost four times longer than the Mahabharata of ancient India. Forty times longer than The Iliad and The Odyssey combined and twenty times longer than Dante’s Divine Comedy.

It’s (appropriately) called The Longest Poem in the World and it’s composed by aggregating real-time public twitter updates and selecting those that rhyme. Every day the poem grows longer by about 4000 verses.  Some of it sounds inane (“Playing hide and seek at the park. 🙂 / Waiting on Heather and Mark!”) A lot of it sounds funny (“im hoping that its easy and i can finish it quickly / They made porcupine love, so stiff and stuck and prickly” and “Had a great gala evening and won lots of prizes / And also simulating penis sizes”).

But most if it’s actually fantastically mundane. Boring. Stupid. People waiting for their favourite TV show to start. People twittering about God during the sermon. People announcing their hangovers like victories. People regurgitating sayings and Oscar Wilde quotes.

Gheorghe’s has called it a collective consciousness. And in effect it is—it brews an essence of human thought and if you read it for too long you’ll be moved. You’ll get angry. You’ll feel every ounce of wasted life like somebody was yanking your haemorrhoids with a tire-iron.

But perhaps this is humanity. Perhaps this is the essence of our being, making The Longest Poem in the World one of the most relevant pieces of art around. One that mirrors (a part of) reality in a one to one correlation. One that, if read in its entirety, would annihilate the little that may still be left of our souls and leave us completely aware of  the emptiness that envelopes our lives.

The poem consists of what hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people deemed most worthy to communicate to the world and/or their friends at a given moment (in real-time). And it rhymes, which somehow accentuates the inherent nihilism of this deranged and disturbing poem.

I don’t blame twitter. The results would probably have been the same (or worse) if the material had been small-talk. In person. Offline. And I’m not sure my own statuses and/or small-talk would’ve been any more interesting.

Yet perhaps the sensation it evokes is false—not based in the reality it stems from. Perhaps the world is not as empty and meaningless as The Longest Poem in the World makes it seem. Perhaps these lines of poetry — these bits of small-talk — are beautiful and filled with meaning when experienced in their natural habitat.

The soldiers in Homer’s Odyssey were never turned into swine. Not really, I mean. We suspend disbelief and allow Homer to take us there, and so the soldiers indeed turn into swine. Gheorghe has in some way (perhaps) turned an innocent humanity into swine, and just maybe that does not detract an ounce of worth from the poem itself (at least if we allow for the artistry of Gheorghe’s poem to be purely conceptual—as formally it’s mostly horrendous). This non-relation to reality might also make it the perfect representative for reality, in Georgia O’Keefe’s words: “Nothing is less real than realism. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things.”

And so regretfully I must admit that (once again!) I cannot yet say whether or not there is meaning in the world.

Oh, the nihilism!

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