This is a role-playing activity designed to give you practice with a variety of ways to conceive of persona and irony with the help of the internet. The idea is that the way each poem constructs a speaking persona, who may or may not closely resemble the author, is a lot like the way each individual user constructs avatars and social identities on twitter or Facebook, which may or may not resemble who that person would be in “real life.”

We will play this game three times, during weeks 2, 5, and 7:

  • Week 2: This is the first round of Fakepoets, and all roles function normally. Five students will play Fakepoets who must respond in character to any questions asked of them, as if it were an AMA on Reddit. Jokers are wild. All roles will be emailed Tuesday morning to enrolled students, so check your inbox then.
  • Week 5: For the second round of Fakepoets, six students will play the fakepoet roles. But this time the roles will be anthropomorphic: the student will be given the task of creating a human voice for an animal described in one of our poems. Example from poems that we won’t be using: I could assign someone to voice the darkling thrush from Hardy’s poem, or the Bird who came down the walk from Dickinson’s.
  • Week 7: TBA!

In all iterations of Fakepoets, there will be established roles to play. I will assign these roles to enrolled students in the course. If you are a lurker on the open web and wish to play along as a Fakepoet, please do not use one of the poems from the week of the activity; I suggest using one of the poems from a previous week to construct your fake identity.


  1. The Fakepoet. You have been assigned the job of impersonating the speaking persona of a particular poem.
  • Give that poem several deep readings. Your job is to take on the voice of the poem, and to be able not just to describe what that voice said, but to answer related questions that your classmates might ask you. That means you will need not only to paraphrase the poem and figure out what is going on, but to become intimate with the voice and its character. What are their motivations and desires? Why was he or she speaking in the first place, and what did she or he hope to persuade the reader of? It’s good to think this through beforehand, since you’ll want to be able to respond in character to your classmates, and there’s no telling what they might ask you. The day before the activity is scheduled to begin, create a separate twitter account using a different email than the one you used for your class twitter account. This account will be for your Fakepoet persona. Provide it with a name and search for an appropriate avatar. Use this Fakepoets account for all your tweets for this week’s activity that have to deal with roleplaying your persona – if you wish to make a point out of character, return to your personal account and tweet that way. You may also use this account in subsequent Fakepoets activities; it’s always fun to bring these back.
  • Announce the role you are playing with a tweet that follows this format: “Hi! I’m the speaker of “[name of poem]” by [name of poet]. Let’s play Fakepoets! #vizpoem #fakepoets” where, of course, you will substitute the relevant information into the brackets. Please remember to use both the #fakepoets and #vizpoem hashtags for all interactions during this activity. Also, include the stable link to the poem in your tweet (url is on the “This Week” page) so that open users can access it on twitter. If you run out of characters in your tweet, consider shortening the URL by going to http://goo.gl.
  • Send out an opening prompt. It should be spoken in character, and it should relate in some way to the poem in question, but you do not need to mimic the style or diction of the poem (I can’t force people to write poetry as good as what we’re studying–-although, of course, it would be really impressive if you could do that). Your prompt should be designed primarily to provoke discussion, and if you are worried about how you might reply to other students, you can always design your opening prompt to foster a certain type of conversation (one you’ve prepared).
  • Apart from that, you are responsible for checking in on twitter as often as you can this week and responding to any and every student who has replied to you. You should regard any questions as an AMA (Ask Me Anything), where you’re obligated to answer even if you feel your character wouldn’t want to.
  1. The Gamer: This student hasn’t been assigned a role, except to play the role of themselves! He or she is tasked with being curious and asking questions, but not much else. The Gamers of this week will be the Fakepoets of the other activities, so it’s just for a bit that you don’t have a flashy role – but without good questions this activity doesn’t work, so it’s still pretty important!
  2. The Devil’s Advocate: This person is required to be skeptical at all times. He or she repeatedly disbelieves what the Fakepoet says, and is constantly taking contrarian positions or asking tough follow-ups. This role may also attempt to transgress on the intentional fallacy by trying too hard to get a persona to “spill the beans” by betraying what the author was thinking.
  3. The Obtuse Private Detective: This person is also transgressive of the intentional fallacy, but more obviously so because he or she insists on reading every single statement by the Fakepoet persona as a statement by the poet her or himself.
  4. The Extrapolator: This person always tries to turn the conversation to something else that has just tangentially occurred to them based on what was just said, or what some details reminded them of: this can take the form of posting links, making inside jokes nobody gets, or asking questions designed to turn the conversation back to his or her individual interests. This role may also attempt to transgress against the affective fallacy by being unable or unwilling to stop making the poem and the persona mean something only for the Extrapolator.

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