Poetry is an art form, and like most art forms, it’s always changing. Contemporary poetry has adapted to its audience, and despite not following a traditional format, Instagram poetry is still an art form that’s meant to be appreciated.
Many modern poets have found success posting excerpts of their work on social media sites like Instagram. Such authors are referred to as instapoets.
By sharing their work through that platform, some poets have been signed to publishing deals, or have even self-published.
Despite their success, these poets have been subject to unfounded criticism. Author Thom Young is an unfortunate example of this bigotry.
Young mocked these instapoets by using a stock photo of a bearded man under the pseudonym “Tyler,” and posted what he viewed as “simplistic” poetry to see if he could gain followers at the same rate as other successful poets.
Young referred to modern poetry as “fidget spinner poetry” in an interview with PBS, meaning that people have short attention spans and are not looking to think critically about what they read. He wants to see people reading about “real stuff,” and believes social media is counterproductive to that.
The celebrated poet Charles Bukowski had a style similar to the instapoets of today, and while he is still considered a great influential poet, the instapoets are mocked and disregarded.
Just because contemporary poets are not using archaic methods, like sending letters to put out their work out does not mean the poets of the past deserve more credit.
Even though they face plenty of opposition, modern poets are finding their rightfully deserved success.
Rupi Kaur self-published her debut poetry book “Milk and Honey” on Amazon in 2014, and the book proved so popular that Andrews McMeel Publishing picked up the book for a second print. She is one of the most well known and successful instapoets, with her book being translated into 30 languages and selling over a million copies.
Breaking away from traditional form, Kaur’s book was composed of short poetry, prose and hand drawings. She tackled the topics of longing, love, loss and sexual abuse – Young might recognize these topics as “real stuff.”
Another instapoet known as Atticus was signed to a publishing deal and released his own book “Love Her Wild.” Like Kaur, Atticus also chose to follow a simple and easy-to-read format, which connected with his audience.
Their styles are a stark contrast to the poetry of the past, yet the short, concise poems speak to readers on a personal level the same way great poetry always has.
What people like Young seem to miss is that these poets write about very real issues from past traumas to racial identity and mental health, and that there doesn’t need to be a lengthy, convoluted text to evoke critical thinking.
Just because poetry is presented in a reader-friendly format, does not mean it’s less valid.
By posting on Instagram, more people are able to see these poets’ work, rather than relying on a published book to sell.
Both Kaur and Atticus’ poetry has led to them developing large social media presences, with Atticus having over 500,000 followers on Instagram and Kaur reaching over one million.
Not only are they receiving free exposure, but the follower increase in poetry accounts suggests that this new generation of authors has reignited an interest in poetry.
The instapoets are doing something within the artform that other poets could not do and they need to be celebrated, not put down.
Poetry is changing and adapting, as it has in the past and will in the future. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating and praising old poetry styles – it’s true that without those contributions to the medium, modern poetry would never exist. But don’t use those poems and poets to prove that new styles and methods are bad.
Art is art, and poetry is poetry.