By saying so much with few words, poetry is able to hold its own as a literary genre. Some may call it a simple art form, but it is meticulously composed of sounds, manipulated phonetics, and meter. From Frost to Hemingway, Dickinson to Ginsberg, poets have penned lines and verses filled with emotion and narratives that endure to this day.
Although the genre has typically taken a backseat to books, we’ve witnessed a resurgence in the art form in the past few years. Poetry has made the jump from the page to our smartphone screens thanks to a surprising source: Instagram. A new wave of poets, dubbed “Instagram poets,” has managed to stop people mid-scroll and awaken a love for a genre that would otherwise go unseen in their day to day lives.
Posting paragraph-length excerpts of their verses, about as long as someone is willing to read on social media, each poet has their own style and subject matter that they stick to.
Rupi Kaur, whose excerpts have fostered two best-selling books, with 2.6 million Instagram followers, is a pioneer of this. In a scathing article for the PN Review, poet Rebecca Watts denounces Kaur’s work, saying it belongs to “a cohort of young female poets who are currently being lauded by the poetic establishment for their ‘honesty’ and ‘accessibility.’” But isn’t that what lies at the root of all poetry? Honesty?
Another poet, who writes under the name Atticus and wears a mask in his profile pictures to remain anonymous, has garnered a little more than 700,000 followers on the same platform. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Atticus revealed his decision to remain anonymous was “to encourage himself to write what he truly feels and not just what he thinks he should feel.” It is another example of the culture of honesty — in this case, the artist detaches himself from the burden of physical identity — and how it prevails.
All this considered, the question begs to be answered: are these “Instagram poets” authentic? There’s a widespread debate going on between literary critics and writers alike weighing in on the subject. Though I am neither critic nor luminary, as a reader and lover of poetry, I have my own opinion to add to the argument.
I think many critics reluctant to accept these new poets arises from the introduction of social media as a new platform, one that allows artists to spread their work around, unconventionally, as compared to the typical publishing route so many are accustomed.
These poets are breathing life back into a genre that nearly lost its relevance in the age of the social. Their work is perfectly tailored (and effective) for our modern day stop-and-go culture, utilizing different social media outlets to dispatch their verses to the masses. It’s introducing poetry to those who wouldn’t normally consider reading it in the first place and opening doors for those to explore the classics that critics have held so dear.