On Instagram Poetry and the Poets Who Write It
April is National Poetry Month, so I figured now is as good a time as any to put on my ranty panties for a poetry-inspired post.
Here it is: I don’t get people who hate on Instgram poets. Personally, it’s not Instagram poets who get on my nerves, it’s the people who gripe about them.
Let’s be real. Poetry has been around for millennia and it seems like every time history ushers in a new wave of poets, the old guard clutch their pearls. The poets who wrote sonnets and couplets and wrote in iambic pentameter ragged on the poets who wrote free verse. The poets who wrote strictly about “intellectual” topics, like nature, ragged on the confessional poets like Sylvia Plath for being “trite.”
So now poets who took a traditional path to publishing are ragging on the poets who got popular through social media, particularly Instagram. This ain’t nothing new. Their gripes are tales as old as time––and wholly unoriginal.
To the best of my knowledge, it was Rupi Kaur who created Instagram poetry, though even if she’s not she’s definitely the most famous #instapoet. In an age where being “poet rich” is a $18 royalty check, Rupi Kaur is making bank selling her books of poetry and is traveling the world on international book tours where she packs massive venues. She’s in the 1% as far as poetry goes. She’s a well-paid, full-time poet who doesn’t have to teach at a university. That’s basically unheard of.
The only reason people gripe about Rupi Kaur is because she took a completely different route, paving a new path for poets in the digital age… and it worked.
She looked at the traditional path of poet success and saw all the obstacles––the low pay, the gatekeepers, the academics who push their students away from things that would be commercially successful because they said it would compromise their art––and she simply opted out. She used the tools available to her (and available to anyone with an internet connection) to do what she wanted, bypassing the literati and naysayers, and is now traveling the world sharing her poems farther and wider than a thousand other, more traditional poets combined.
People hate her because she didn’t stop to ask for the permission she didn’t need.
I have a lot of respect for people who think outside the box and are willing to take untraditional chances to get ahead. I can’t imagine the number of people who probably discouraged her along the way, though I bet the rejections were many and the warnings that she’s “never make it” were plentiful.
But here’s the thing. I’ve read her volume of poetry Milk and Honey and it’s my favorite poetry collection. Yeah, I’ve read Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich and Charles Simic and bell hooks and Edna St. Vincent Millay, not to mention a number of modern poets, and the thing I’ve overwhelmingly noticed is that they’re all trying to be literary. They’re all pandering to the intelligentsia on some level. Rupi Kaur writes poetry for the everyday person. She’s not trying to be cryptic or make her readers puzzle out some kind of backstory to make sense of her work. She writes the kind of hard-hitting, gorgeously worded lines you want to get tattooed on your body. The kind of stuff that makes sense even without context.
That’s why I love it. And why the folks who gripe about her don’t.
But something tells me Rupi doesn’t care what the haters say. Why would you when you’re as successful as she is and living your dream? In the parlance of our times, haters gonna hate.
Do you like Instapoetry? Tell me your favorite Instapoets in the comments!