Instagram: a revival or suffocation of modern poetry?

The way we digest literature is changing and it has been for a while. Instagram, meet poetry and prose. Deanna weighs up the benefits of using Instagram as a means of self-publishing and what this means for literature in the 21st century. 


Enter the age of poetic minimalism. It has arrived and it’s far removed from the sonnets of Shakespeare, and the lyrical verse of the romantics. Where can you find it? Instagram.

Poetry has never had a more unusual platform. Instagram was born out of selfies, birds-eye view brunch dates, panoramic landscapes and most importantly, the filter; a way of disguising the real to make it more ‘aesthetically appealing’. Despite Instagram’s focus on the visual, and poetry’s emphasis on the literary, the two have never coexisted so perfectly.

In filters, Instagram became a way of simultaneously hiding and inviting strangers to examine every inch of our lives. For poetry, it has done the same. Instagram poetry has become a way of hiding behind the paradoxical anonymity of the internet and shameless global self-promotion.

For those conscious of the way their gender and love of poetry will come to be seen in the world, the Instapoet can dodge fear of stigma in gender-neutral display pictures, letting only their words speak for them.

Poetry has become a vulnerable art. To be a poet requires self-confidence in your own writing and self-belief in the idea that one day you could make it. But, the power of Instagram poetry lies in the ability to self-publish. You skip the scrutiny of potential publishers. No enclosed manuscripts, phone-calls, or rejection letters. And it’s even easier to be read. In our back pockets, hand-bags, backpacks, hands, is, 90% of the time, a device that allows us to access varieties of social media.

 From the Instagram account of  Atticus

From the Instagram account of Atticus

The claim that the literary tradition has died on the altar of social media astounds me. It’s never been easier to be a writer or a critic. It’s never been easier to access such a rich literary tapestry.

Instagram poetry does not deserve to be labelled so negatively. In April 1946, George Orwell published his short essay, ‘Politics and the English Language’ in Horizon. We see Orwell’s call to arms for prose and poetry that is more succinct, less superfluous, emerging in its extreme, over seventy years later.

Orwell advocates for writing that says exactly what it needs to in as little words as possible. He writes:

‘The worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them.’

Instagram poetry forces the user into minimalism. A short story is no longer more than 500 words, but rather one of three sentences, that remain as impactful as entire novels. Instagram poetry is a popular embodiment of this experimentally simplistic powerful form of writing.

 From the Instagram account of r.h. Sin

From the Instagram account of r.h. Sin

Instagram has not killed poetry. But the sceptic will.

No, we don’t read as much as we used to. Finding time to read a two hundred page novel in the tumultuous avalanche of mid-week to-do lists is optimistic. However, this is where Instagram poetry and prose excels. Rarely is it more than ten lines. We are able to fill our personal social media feeds with soundbites of literary inspiration.

Whether this phenomenon is eye-opening to the attention span of our generation, or simply reflective of the quantity of our ‘spare time’, that never really feels ‘spare’, Instagram poetry is still revealing to our deep-seated attraction to literature. There’s just a new way to get our fix. And it has arrived in the form of micro-dosing.

 

If you are interested in Instagram poetry but don’t know where to start, I would recommend beginning with Atticus, Rupi Kaur, Nikita Gill, r.h sin and Lang Leav.

To read 'Politics in the English Language', George Orwell, in full, visit this link.