Half the words, all the feels
To be or not to be an Instagram poet? That is the question. If memories of high school Shakespeare conjure up hours of burning the midnight oil while dissecting Hamlet, fear not for the diminutive and highly approachable Instapoetry is a renaissance of the genre.
Alas, don’t be fooled by the name. Though much criticized by the literary establishment as frivolous and inconsequential, Instagram poetry stands its ground and should not be discredited so lightly. It may one day take its place among the greats.
Although Instagram was conceived as a sharing app for self-documentation through photography, a new wave of poets have swapped cameras for pens, instead using the medium to offer up bite-sized but visceral verses of their prose.
Twenty-five-year-old Indian-Canadian poet Rupi Kaur first garnered attention for her visual poetry of a young woman menstruating, intended as a way to break down taboos about periods. In 2014, she started sharing snippets of poetry on her Instagram account accompanied by her own illustrations. This sally into verse eventually culminated in her debut self-published poetry book milk and honey which fearlessly takes on sexual abuse, trauma and womanhood. Her latest, the sun and her flowers, addresses themes such as loss, immigration and healing through the metaphor of the life of a flower. Kaur has since taken her words to the stage in spoken word poetry and is currently on a worldwide book tour. Three million Insta followers hang on her every thought.
Rupi Kaur, from the sun and her flowers
Famous for his Typewriter Series, professional wedding photographer and poet Tyler Knott Gregson posts pithy poems written on an antique Remington to his Instagram along with daily handwritten haikus. A compilation of poems from his Typewriter Series was turned into a best-selling book entitled Chasers of the light. Last count, he had over 355k followers.
Tyler Knott Gregson, from Typewriter Series #2300
After decades of collecting dust, poetry books are now enjoying record-breaking sales. The poetry revival is largely thanks to its newfound home on Instagram. Not bound by traditional technique and structure, poets like Kaur and Gregson are allowed to express themselves freely, imperfectly without sacrificing the pathos and vulnerability we so crave.
One of the appeals of Instapoetry is its accessibility. Since its publication, milk and honey has been translated into over 30 languages. Modern poetry is easier to understand and palatable to a larger audience. Once thought of as a bygone literary genre, poetry’s comeback in its new hors d’oeuvre size format on Instagram could convince even cynics to open their minds and hearts.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, from Facebook
Since the universe of poetry is now no longer exclusive to poets, artists from other fields have embraced it in a more public way. Lin-Manuel Miranda, famous for creating and starring in the record-shattering Broadway musical Hamilton: An American Musical, posts a few verses to Twitter every morning and night filled with words of wisdom and wit reminiscent of his lyricism. These have recently been gathered into a book of comfort and motivation titled Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You, on sale this October.
And then there’s Bo Burnham, comedian turned director who dabbles in poetry on the side. His poetry collection, Egghead or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone combines Burnham’s comedic prowess with miniature musings about the human condition, creating a new subgenre altogether.
Bo Burnham, from Egghead or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone
So, next time you’re scrolling through thousands of photos of your friends or your friends’ dogs, stop and read a few verses of prose. Taking a moment in an otherwise harried electronic day to glimpse into the soul of another and in turn partake of the shared feelings can never be deemed trivial no matter what the literary critics say.