You might have noticed the seemingly meteoric rise of what has been dubbed “Instagram poetry” or the rise of “instapoets.” These terms, whether you see them as a disparaging or not, have come to define visually striking poetry, short and deeply emotional, delivered to audiences through the social media platform Instagram. This delivery method allows poets to reach huge audiences, and some claim it is leading to an overall increase in poetry sales. The moment I realized this movement was more than just a trend was when I saw that not only are there shelves of poetry collections at Target, but that those shelves were empty—with authors like Rupi Kaur and r.h. Sin having sold out completely.
The backlash to this delivery method has come just as swiftly as its rise, with critics scrutinizing the form and quality of the work with mock accounts that slight this highly emotional poetry in all the ways you would expect, (e.g., poetry about the emotional experience of ordering a pizza).
Before you judge a poem by its… Instagram account, you should probably give them a read, so delve into these authors as an introduction to this phenomenon:
Rupi Kaur is arguably the most famous Instagram poet and provides poems on abuse, love, and loss. These works—often accompanied with Picasso-esque line drawings—appear simple, but are teeming with past angst and future anxiety. Her most famous collection is her first, Milk and Honey, and she just came out with the newest, The Sun and Her Flowers, in 2017.
Nayyirah Waheed’s collections, though still personal, differ in their ambitious tackling of race and justice in a more direct way than other poets that have been lumped into this category. Her work also came much earlier than some of the others, bringing forth claims that the subsequent "instapoets" have ripped off her style. Her poems provide an emotional explanation of how she experiences racism and conversations about race.
r.h. Sin was famously covered in the The New Yorker article, “The Life of an Instagram Poet,” and is known for pro-women poetry and documenting falling in love with his now wife. Sin began with a collection that is broken into three parts, Whiskey, Words, & a Shovel Volumes I, II, and III. He also has released the collections A Beautiful Composition of Broken, Algedonic, Planting Gardens in Graves, and is set to release She Felt Like Feeling Nothing later in 2018.
Amanda Lovelace is probably the least well known of the poets covered here, and her bend towards fantasy and symbolism in these emotionally charged poems sets her apart a bit. She has two books published, but are both part of her series Women are Some Kind of Magic. The first is The Princess Saves Herself in This One and the newest that came out in early 2018, is The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One.
Take some time to peruse these poets on Instagram and let us know if there is any hidden talent we have yet to discover and what you think of this movement. Is this the next wave of poetry providing an exciting platform and access to new voices, or merely a trend?