How Instagram became the new poet’s corner
A rise in self expression over social media has inspired a myriad of literary talent to emerge from the photo-led platform
In between selfies, food photos and memes, the last thing you might expect to find on Instagram are profound snippets of writing. Yet this image-led social media platform is fast gaining traction as a prominent player in the poetry realm, as writers experiment with alternative methods through which to present their text.
There are over 49 million (and counting) posts tagged “poetry” on Instagram, and numerous, wildly popular accounts designed solely for the purpose of sharing works old and new.
However, some professionals and critics are far from pleased with this turn of events, criticising the platform as doing this literary format a disservice. While they’re certainly entitled to their opinions, it’s important to look at the role Instagram is playing in the wider poetry picture.
For starters, the platform offers new poets an opportunity to share their work with a larger audience, when they might have otherwise been overlooked in a niche and competitive industry. It’s proving fruitful for quite a few too, such as Indian-born Canadian Rupi Kaur. At just 27, she is arguably the grande dame of Instagram poets: since signing up to the platform in 2014, Kaur has gained 4 million loyal followers and sold over 2.5 million copies of her debut collection, Milk and Honey.
And it’s not only poets benefiting. This modern avenue has opened the world of poetry to a new and younger audience, and allowed them to connect with a literary form which many have long deemed unrelatable or exclusive. It’s surely no coincidence that two-thirds of poetry buyers in the UK are aged under 34, and 70 per cent of Instagram users also fall beneath this age. Overall, poetry sales are up 12 per cent, reaching £12.3 million in 2018.
But, as with all art forms, it can be tricky to find the diamonds in the rough; and the tens of millions of posts to trawl through certainly don’t make the task any easier. So we’ve rounded up seven of Instagram’s prime poets (aside from Kaur) to help you dip your toes into the water—and guarantee there’s something for everyone.
Written By SheShe
There’s a kind of comforting reassurance in the poems from SheShe—an anonymous writer who’s just graduated from New York University. Every poem begins with an ampersand, creating the impression you’re joining her in the midst of a musing; and reflect on simple thoughts around self-worth and relationships that many (including her 70,000 followers) will recognise relating with at some point.
Despite being a newcomer to the Instagram poetry scene, Ashley is quickly making a mark. Her posts vary from a couple of lines to longer verses, each focusing on and encouraging empowerment; something she says she feels strongly about. Some posts see words accompanied with simple line drawings, while more recent ones comprise soft-focus photos; generating a subtle warmth that adds to the appeal of this Canadian writer’s work.
While Wattney Lander’s poems tend to encourage reflection of our personal thoughts, convictions and emotions, the photographs into which they are incorporated have a different focus: nature. As Lander has a self-confessed passion for the outdoors, these pictures offer further glimpses into her own world; but also beautifully demonstrate how imagery and text can be effectively fused to maintain Instagram’s visual intentions.
With the words on Torroni’s feed conveyed through a variety of different fonts, spacings and designs, the poems themselves are as much visual pieces of artwork as they are literary—making Instagram their ideal home. The themes Torroni writes about are diverse; and, although love is covered, so too are topics ranging from space and spirituality, to grief and social observations.
Since launching her poems on social media in the mid-2010s, Leav has become an internationally best-selling author with nine published books (seven poetry collections and two novels) under her belt. Over half a million followers currently track this Cambodian-Australian poet’s musings, many of which are lengthier pieces of mesmerising prose that offer raw insights into personal thoughts and feelings about herself, her relationships and her writing.
For a hearty dose of feminist empowerment blended with splashes of culture and history, look no further than Gill. Encouraging the reader to be unapologetically themselves, a scroll through the feed of this British-Indian writer will leave you feeling inspired and ready to take on the world. Although many of her poems are presented against more simplistic backgrounds, the words alone are more than capable of making an impact.
With over 650,000 followers and counting, being a male writer in a female-dominated landscape hasn’t hampered Taplin’s success; while another factor which sets his feed apart is that every single poem is presented as typed text on a plain white background. But not having to rely on additional tactics to lure in the reader indicates just how striking the poems are; and, with a primary focus on love and loss, his words can’t help but resonate.
Read more: Poet corners of Britain you should visit
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