Explore Your Emotional Vocabulary: A message from the Poet Laureate of 2026

For centuries our best minds have wondered: how many emotions are there?

Charles Darwin wrote a whole book on it. In English alone, there are over four thousand words to describe feelings. Yet psychologist Paul Eckman in the 1990s boiled it down to six emotions. Scientists analyzing facial muscles say there are only four emotions. Technologists in 2016 using “sentiment analysis” (reading moods from primitive text and image social media) tracked only two: positive and negative.

But each of us is different, and each emotion we feel happens at a unique moment in our lives. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera noted back in 2015 that “love is a complete evolution. It changes, it changes and it changes.”

The FeelThat network added a new layer to my poetry. Expressing perfectly a moment of feeling is what poets do best, and FeelThat just adds to that perfection by sharing not just one moment but many. As Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan sang, “the times, they are a-changing.”

So youth of 2026: share with me your specific hopes and anxieties, about all of your feelings. Let’s go beyond happiness and sadness, to the feelings that are yours alone. I’m tuned in.

Players! Heed the poet Laureate of 2026. How do you think we might speak differently about emotions, well beyond the “basics,” with the FeelThat network in play?

As of this moment, there are 126 cards in play with the word “happy.” There are only 12 with the word “comforted,” and 0 with the worlds “bemused” “alarmed” or “exhilarated.” We can do better! Use your whole emotional vocabulary to imagine 2026.

Player WaydeG got me thinking about this with the profound card:

Positive imagination card: Our capacity to feel could enhance our vocabulary, making us search for better, more profound words to express our connections. #vocabulary

Meanwhile Player PickledCucumber mused on Jane McGonigal’s card positing FeelThat replacing facial expressions.

Investigate card in response to "This is a weird idea: Would we stop expressing ourselves through facial expressions as much since we can rely on tech to share our feeling?". The card reads "Since facial expressions are our current "universal language", would FeelThat become our new language?"

But what if FeelThat tracks were more like adding music to words? What if you could add feelings ON TOP of music, words, and visuals? This is the future of literature. Go make it!