Instapoets show there’s no limitation to form in poetry

In Opinion
(Gabe Gandara / Daily Titan)

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.

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11 commentsOn Instapoets show there’s no limitation to form in poetry

  • You’re aware Thom Young invented the term instapoet right?

  • THOM YOUNG (Writer)

    Jerry actually we invented pop poetry as well now if you excuse us we must get back to our Wordsworth and Thoreau. My I suggest our book Savage Beauty Jerry for your reading pleasure.

  • If this Thoreau guy writes more than a six word novel I don’t want to read it

  • THOM YOUNG (Writer)

    He died unfortunately in the 19th Century however it is rumored he wrote she poems during his stay in his cabin at Walden. Shortly after publishing Civil Disobedience he released his relatively unknown poetry book ‘Solitude and She Chaos’

  • O I’ve heard of that book a guy was reading it on the train in Williamsburg but I thought it was Atticus’s new book. I should’ve known though, it’s too long of a title for Atticus

  • THOM YOUNG (Writer)

    I highly recommend Nature by Emerson who was cool enough to let Walden crash at his cabin at Walden. I can only imagine the amount of ‘hygge’ Thoreau must have tapped into out there amongst the birds and nature.

  • I walked into the woods
    Under the moon
    I left you there
    I returned with me

    -shitticus (for Henry T.)

  • Comparing Rupi Kaur to Charles Bukowski is like comparing Nikki Minaj to Woody Guthrie. There is far more at play here than popular resonance–artistry, depth of meaning, imagery…. There are plenty of great poets working today, women and men who are artisans crafting elevated music out of words, but very few of them can be found spitting out trite “un-poems” on Twitter. That does not means the “insta-poets” aren’t worthy of interest. As literary studies have devolved into being less about art and more about cultural studies, the genre is certainly worthy of inspection if for no other reason than the collision of a broad, universally accessible and somewhat democratic ((to those whose economics allow them unfettered access to technology, of course–this form excludes broad swaths of the “unconnected”) outlet and a large segment of the population to whom worth is calculated by “likes” and who pride themselves in their impatiently brief attention spans. Until the “insta-poets,” en masse, find their way towards an artisan vigor that approaches the level of artistry and authenticity they demand from their butchers, chefs, and baristas, the they will be amount to nothing more than enthusiastic dilettantes flicking words on the screen and humming old Depeche mode songs. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what they’re doing–young people digging on poetry is beyond cool. They just need to take it up a few collective notches before their comparison to our great voices can be taken as anything but an insult. Bukowski may be a reach at this point. Aim for Rod McKuen and get back to me when you’ve got something to show for your work.

  • I just
    when I read that.
    One tear. God,
    I’m so

  • that’s a great poem! Since no one is allowed to judge you put it on Instagram you’ll probably get 30k followers and a book deal with By The Seven!

  • THOM YOUNG (Writer)

    It’s ironic that they associate the word bigotry with a dislike of a type of poetry when in fact they spew the hate they claim to be against. They are so tolerant until you disagree with them instead of thinking rationally they don’t critically think as to what we did with our pop poetry experiment proving how easy it is. This is the type of journalism they are learning in college? They will be perfect for Faux News.

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