Instapoets and the New Fame of Poetry

Poetry has entered a new realm with bright and shining lights (or just massive followers) through viral social media fame. Poets are now using sites like Instagram and Tumblr to build their platforms in a much more visible space than ever before but it’s not without backlash. These short poems that focus on love and loss aimed to be relatable and shareable bring people to question what is “real” poetry and are these short and simplified digital writings worth the recognition. Traditionally, poetry has been viewed as an out of reach artform held for the elite but as technology has a way of changing the way people communicate, these “Instapoets” are using it to jumpstart their creative careers and perhaps even change the perception and accessibility of poetry all together.

Author of Milk and Honey Rupi Kaur is undoubtedly one of the most well known Instapoets with a reining 2 million follower count on Instagram and over 1.4 million copies sold (and counting) as told by theguardian. With this new found fame comes its own set of criticism. Kaur was a hot topic of discussion in summer 2017 when claims of plagiarism arose about her writings being too close in similarity of another well famed Instagram poet Nayyirah Waheed, author of Salt. These short lines of poetry tell stories of heartbreak, healing, and self love in ways that are almost so intimate and precise, they echo something like a behind-the-doors conversation among girlfriends that we’ve all heard and had before so a lot of these poems do sound familiar.

Nevertheless, many poets like Rupi Kaur, Nayyirah Waheed, and Alex Elle are taking back their creative ownership by building their own online platforms and self-publishing through sites like Amazon’s independent publishing platform CreateSpace.com. These poets are doing the work online and earning publication deals after one or even two of their own self-published books become largely popular. Alex Elle and her books Words from a Wanderer and Love in My Language were published through Amazon’s Create Space and in March of 2017, she released her third book Neon Soul: A Collection of Poetry and Prose through Andrews McMeel Publishing. In 2015, The New York Times notes that “Tyler Knott Gregson’s All the Words Are Yours hit Number 3 on Nielsen’s top 10 best selling poetry titles, ahead of Dante, Homer, Seamus Heaney and Khalil Gibran.” Gregson is an example of a once struggling freelance writer turned best-selling celebrity poet with over 560,000 Instagram and Tumblr followers to show for it. Gregon’s first book “Chasers of Light” sold over 120,000 in print which is more than the 20,000 copies sold by Louise Glück’s collection “Faithful and Virtuous Night” which won the National Book Award in 2014.

Digital media is opening new pathways for creatives to showcase their work and in some ways overstep the gatekeepers into the hands of consumers. Although it is still not widely accepted to disregard the traditional literary publication process of submitting to literary journals and hoping for something less than a pile of rejections, these new poets are an illustration of how technology is creating a generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. While it may not be enough to impress poetry critics and connoisseurs to hand out awards, perhaps one of the most important things about these poets is that they are bringing poetry back to life and doing so in the hands of people from all different ages, races and backgrounds.

 

References

“Books by Alexandra Elle” Retrieved from: https://www.amazon.com/Alexandra-Elle/e/B00J21SPFA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1514396652&sr=1-1

“Web Poets’ Society: New Breed Succeeds in Taking Verse Viral” Retrieved from:

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/business/media/web-poets-society-new-breed-succeeds-in-aking-verse-viral.html?hpw&rref=books&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0#

“Rupi Kaur: the inevitable backlash against Instagram’s favourite poet” Retrieved from:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2017/oct/04/rupi-kaur-instapoets-the-sun-and-her-flowers