Though there is some debate on this topic, the longest poem is sometimes considered to be the Classical Indian epic The Mahabharata,
which clocks in at over 200,000 lines. However, in a matter of time, the longest poem will belong to Twitter, or, more accurately, Pentametron’s experiment in algorithmic composition, found here on Twitter, and here on the Web.
Pentametron scans all tweets and collects those written in iambic pentameter (the tradition English meter, which consists of five feet, each foot composed of an unaccented and accented syllable. This means a ten syllable line that sounds like the beating of the heart: lub-DUB, lub-DUB, lub-DUB, lub-DUB, lub-DUB. John Frederick Nims estimated that 75% of English language poetry is written in iambic pentameter, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare’s sonnets and most of his plays, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and so on.) Pentametron then pairs rhyming lines, mimicking the rhyming iambic pentameter couplets of Chaucer and Pope.
Pentametron has retweeted over 24,000 lines of poetry, making it longer than the Odyssey and the Divine Comedy. The poem is a massive collage that collects disparate discourses, styles, snytax, and content. It also proves that iambic pentameter is a natural phenomena, and not like pouring water into a vase, as Ezra Pound argued about formal verse.
If Pentametron continues as planned, it will create the longest poem ever in a few years.