InstaPoets 

Smartphone with the Instagram logo

 Post by Tessy W. 

Social Media and the Poet

As an introduction, I'll begin with a few disclaimers.

I don't read a lot of poetry. Other than a short phase in high school, dreaming of literary stardom as I scribbled profound thoughts in a rainbow colored notebook, I haven't had much to do with poetry. Even then, I did little but read a Frost poem or two, and thought myself risqué for buying a pocket-sized Arthur Rimbaud.

Additionally, I'll also note that I'm an odd millennial. Don't get me wrong, I have the trappings of your average millennial; Snapchat filters are necessary for everything, and I communicate almost exclusively via text.

But I'm not big on social media. Send me a wave on Facebook Messenger, and I probably won't see it for two months. I haven't checked my Instagram account in half a year, and I was never on Twitter to begin with.

Thus, this conversational gem:
"Have you seen the latest Rupi Kaur?"
"Umm... I don't think so?" I had no reference point to place the name, but had a vague notion that I'd heard of her before.
A phone was thrust into my face.
"On Instagram.... you know, the Instapoets?"

Having only just heard the term, I was confused. My friend sighed, already well-acquainted with my flaws, and the conversation moved on.

But I was intrigued. I'd vaguely heard of Rupi Kaur, later learning that she is a giant among this new generation of poets. The poem I had been shown was succinct and lovely; so, I decided to investigate.

Poem with illustration from Instagram

rupikaur_. Poem. Instagram, 25, Feb. 2018, www.instagram.com/p/BfoOHhYAQTt/?hl=en&taken-by=rupikaur_.

Instapoets present their poetry, often in stylized font and sometimes with illustrative imagery, on various forms of social media (including Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.), with an emphasis on Instagram. The result: clips of thought presented with instant shareability.

These poets are labelled "Instapoets" like they're frivolous. It’s a result of their medium.

Thoughts and ideas shared on social media hold less gravitas apparently. On occasion, this is a justified stereotype. Using technology can make us truly thoughtless.

It's easy to say something stupid when you share your first, and sometimes second thought, without ever pausing to reflect. Or if you parse that semi-serious thought with a meme.

However, the immediate sneering dismissal of Instapoets and their social media kin isn't often inspired by a well-reasoned, multi-point critique of the impact of technology on modern lifestyles. Instead, social media is paralleled with the younger generation it emerged with, and when are Millennials ever seen as anything but thoughtless?

A snowflake generation producing snowflake poetry.

However, as a non-poetry reader, I was impressed by Rupi Kaur and her fellow Instapoets.

Their poetry is heavy; the type of snow with weight. Flipping through "The Princess Saves Herself in This One" by Amanda Lovelace, I was smacked in the face by parental abuse, death, bad relationships, and an ever-present fantastical sheen that charmed the fantasy-reader within me. She cast herself as the hero that could overcome those pesky plot barriers that we call life. Emotions at the forefront, candid.

These poems are often as fast-paced as the modern society they're spawned from. The bold words and images, burned into your mind like afterimages. Pausing between the meetings and the endless string of e-mails, you remember the clipped stanzas that stole your breath, the imagery still blooming with color.

And by no means do these poets limit themselves to social media; if anything, their Instagram accounts are savvy marketing tools. Rupi Kaur sold over a million copies of her first book, Milk and Honey.1 R.H. Sin, with over a million followers and the second bestselling poet of 2017 (Kaur was the first)2, is nearly as popular with his characteristic fourth-wave feminism.
Wandering the poetry section of the library, I can pull a handful of slim volumes off of the shelf. Is there a difference between the poet and the Instapoet?

A mottled cover like sparks of flame, Wild Embers by Nikita Gill drew me in with a powerful reimagining of Grecian goddesses. Hera locking the door on Zeus, and learning to sleep by herself. Persephone exalting in her throne of fire. Gill has almost half a million followers on Instagram - a demigoddess in her own right.

Next, a slender green volume titled, Nature Poem by Tommy Pico. I flipped between poems randomly, forwards, backwards, and then back to the start; all the way through. Sharp and absorbing, with a solemnness like the overcast skies on his cover. You can find him on Instagram, but mostly for the common usage of filtered shots and life-moments, not specifically for his poetry.
Instagram is a modern day method of expression. If it encourages people to read poetry, everyone benefits. A line of verse on Instagram could spark a passion for words just as easily as a book.

Investigation thus completed, I settled on an easy conclusion. Poetry makes the poet, not the medium.

1. Maher, J. (2018). Can Instagram Make Poems Sell Again?. [online] Publishersweekly.com. Available at: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/75976-can-instagram-make-poems-sell-again.html [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].
1. April is National Poetry Month in bookstores – and on social media, too. NPD Group. https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2018/instapoets-rekindling-u-s--poetry-book-sales--the-npd-group-says/. Published April 5, 2018. Accessed June 14, 2018.

 

Posted by zsmith@auroragov.org On 26 July, 2018 at 11:23 AM  

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