Instagram poets like Rupi Kaur, Charly Cox, and Fariha Róisín have taken over the Millenial creative realm and have devoured the hearts and minds of impressionable youth.
It has been said that these poets misuse what William Carlos Williams did. William Carlos Williams was an actual poet at the head of the Modernist movement who invented the ingenious line-breaks these Insta-poets now supposedly exploit. Rupi Kaur has gone on record and said she treats her poetry “like a business.” By the rules of logic, you can then presume she is not writing actual poetry. None of them are. But if you’re curious what they write about, and how they write, read on.
Timothy Green from Press-Enterprise established this not-writing-actual-poetry nonsense in a kinder way:
Instagram poetry is the exact opposite (of real poetry). It’s self-aware and entirely useful. It is designed to sell and so it sells. It’s not exploration, but expression. Rather than poesis, it is mimos, “to mimic,” or better the Latin mirari, “to look at and admire.” Rather than a door to new meaning, it’s a mirror held up to the reader, reflecting and rendering beautifully back what the reader already knows.
image via amazon
Rupi Kaur confronts taboo and turns it into cliché. She mixes metaphors and writes inelegantly. In her first book, Milk and Honey, there are lines like, “he put his hands on my mind” and “how can I help I begged my heart…”
However you feel about the discussions she has with her internal organs, this Indian-Canadian writer has a massive following. I never thought I’d say that about a poet, maybe about a Rolling Stone, but not someone who calls themselves a poet.
Image via Amazon
Charly Cox uses mental health as her taboo. In her book, She Must Be Mad, you can see she swings from pole to pole when it comes to line breaks, and doesn’t believe in revision. It’s about more words, more alliteration, like, “spanking new anticipation twirling twines that tie knots in your chest, frayed ends tickling your stomach to stir hot queasy…”
…did someone say queasy? It’s a stream of consciousness modern-day extravaganza! James Joyce jubilation? No. Not quite. Look, the problem with Cox is that she isn’t confronting anything; even if this prose-laden punctuation-less madness is followed by a pared-down ‘poem’ (ugh) she ends up just confronting boy-craziness which is not taboo, not outrageous. It seems people are purposely searching for a lack of originality. Are people just not up for a challenge anymore?
Image via Amazon
Then you have Fariha Róisín, who could possibly have something to offer. She identifies as a queer Muslim femme and chooses to talk a bit about it In her Insta-poetry book, How to Cure a Ghost. I don’t mean to imply that her background and how she identifies is what makes her interesting. Rather it’s because she rambles on and on, dancing around the point.
She does the line break thing without knowing who she learned it from. If her rambling were compressed, cut, it could be something more impressive. She writes, “…it’s no coincidence I turned out like this…a condition abbu refused to accept…all the sorrows of our sad, sad nations.”
Is it wrong to want a poet who is almost saying something to actually say it? For pages she goes on the way a seventh-grade jazz saxophonist might riff.
So there are many more Insta-poets, like Wilder Poetry, Atticus, Blythe Baird, Amanda Lovelace and so on. They all pretty much do the same thing.
Here’s the formula:
- Pick a topic that deals with something illicit like sexuality, abuse, and so on
- Make something with line breaks
- Make sure it’s in a wordswag font!
- Post to Instagram
Once they get popular enough to move up the ladder, publishing houses like to divide their books into four sections. It is a kind of pre-determined script for more insta-poets to come.
So, if you like aphorisms if you like word magnets then go ahead, but to rephrase what Green said, it isn’t poetry. We scratched the surface of some of Instagram Poets, but it seems there isn’t much below. In fact, after reading some of these ticker-tape word parades, I suggest everyone read real poets. Support those who are creating magic through craft and technique. Try Jean Valentine’s The Door in the Moutain. She’s not easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is, though. That’s a cliche, only because it’s true.
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