Since its founding in 1925, The New Yorker has published verse from some of the most celebrated names in American letters — poets like Audre Lorde, Joseph Brodsky and Ada Limón.
Many of those poems are lying dormant on NewYorker.com, where subscribers can peruse the archives for $1 per week. Or, beginning today, they can just follow a bot on Twitter.
On Monday, The New Yorker launched TNY Poetry, a bot for Twitter and Facebook that shares random excerpts of New Yorker poetry from the magazine's 92-year history.
The idea sprung from a desire to celebrate The New Yorker's storied history and make use of its extensive reservoir of poetry, said Monica Racic, The New Yorker's multimedia editor. The magazine had colonized many platforms but had yet to experiment with Twitter bots when she and Lainna Fader, The New Yorker's associate director of audience development, decided to try an experiment.
"Poetry is personal," Racic said. "And I thought, what better way to receive it than a private message sent to you?"
So, they got to work. Working with The New Yorker's poetry editor, Paul Muldoon, and its poetry coordinator, Elisabeth Denison, the pair set up the bot to share a poem at random from The New Yorker's archive every day for 92 days. On Twitter, the bot "@ mentions" each follower and shares a snippet of poetry, sometimes read in the author's own voice. On Facebook, the bot sends readers a poem in the morning, afternoon or night, depending on their preference.
Although bots and verse might seem to clash at first glance, they're actually more congenial than they appear, Muldoon said.
"The new technology associated with the bot may seem to be at odds with how poetry has traditionally been delivered," he said. "In fact, it’s absolutely consistent with how poetry has always come to us in the world — unpredictably, randomly, taking us unawares."
The spontaneity of having a poem sent to you on social media mirrors the serendipity of discovering a poem in print, Racic said. And it's meant to speak to communities on the internet that are filled with poetry-appreciators, especially on Twitter and Tumblr.
"We’re hoping to reach poetry lovers, archivists, librarian Twitter, poetry Twitter and technologists," Fader said.
They're also hoping the bot will prompt users to become "surprised and delighted" and keep coming back to NewYorker.com as a result, Fader said.
Although it's only just debuted, The initial response has been supportive:
— Angela Lashbrook (@lemonsand) March 6, 2017
— Travis Swicegood (@tswicegood) March 6, 2017
— valerie 🤔 (@vdlr) March 6, 2017
— The Thread (@thethreadmpr) March 6, 2017
The New Yorker's extensive archive is one of the many factors that separates it from the competition, Fader said. Much of The New Yorker's work is evergreen, exhaustive and considered articles that can have resonance decades after the fact when they're shared on social media. That goes for its poetry, too, which isn't overtly tied to a specific news event.
"I think our archive is incredibly valuable, and that’s partially why I was thinking we should endeavor to create a bot," Racic said. "There are these wonderful gems that can be buried. And when we resurface them, there can be a lot of things that can still be pertinent."