The digital age is often blamed for the demise of traditional art forms. Along with our attention spans, painting, music and literature are all set to perish in this overwhelming era of breaking news, fake news, memes and vlogs. Poetry, however, is fighting back.
Research has shown a 21 per cent annual growth rate in sales of poetry books in the US since 2015, making it one of the fastest growing categories in publishing, with almost half written by Insta-poets. Similar research in the UK revealed soaring sales, with a record £12.3 million, a 12 per cent rise, for 2018, and teenage girls and young women identified as the biggest consumers. Ahead of World Poetry Day on March 21, Vogue speaks to six poets from around the world – all of whom are cutting through the social media noise – about the power of language and poetry’s newfound resonance in the digital age.>Why Poetry Is Back In Fashion
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“I had no expectations,” says the Spanish law graduate and former UN worker of her decision to star posting poetry on Instagram, back in 2015. “I thought it would be interesting to give Instagram a different use from what it is normally given. Everyone publishes images, so I thought ‘why not writing?’ And I’ve continued ever since.
“It is a shame that Insta-poets are so heavily criticised today. It seems to me that it is the literary world that is most strongly opposed to this ‘novel’ approach, but I believe that the poetry that comes from social media platforms is the purest out there. It hasn’t been edited, or corrected by anyone; it is raw and honest. I think it is brave and genuine, and I think that is why [poetry] resonates so much more now. We spend endless hours scrolling; living in this virtual world of hedonism and vanity, which rarely adds anything to our lives. I think poetry is a light in what can be a dark place. When readers comment to say they can relate to a feeling or share a poem, that is the best feeling in the world.”>Instagram Sensation Rupi Kaur Gets Candid About Trolls, Acne, And How To Make It As A Writer
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“While I think Instagram is a wonderful medium for uploading snippets of work, I don’t believe that a social media platform should define a genre of writing,” says Thailand-born, New Zealand-based novelist and poet Lang Leav, who is known for writing about love, loss and female empowerment.Rupi Kaur
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26-year-old Canadian-Punjabi poet Rupi Kaur is leading the charge. Her first book, Milk & Honey – which she self-published in 2015 – famously outsold Homer’s The Odyssey in 2016, spent more than 100 consecutive weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and has now been translated into more than 35 languages. Her second book, The Sun and Her Flowers, sold a million copies within the first three months of being published in 2017. Now counted among Forbes' 30 under 30, Kaur has become one of social media’s biggest success stories – but she’s also received criticism from sceptics and traditionalists. So, what does she think of the label “Insta-poet”, which inevitably comes with the territory?
“Some folks use [the term] as a means to empower. Others use it to demean,” she tells Vogue. “I find that it often gets used to describe lots of writers (published and unpublished) who are young women and whose readers are predominantly young women. Often it’s used to invalidate and disempower. As if, because it’s written and published online, it doesn’t qualify as ‘real poetry’. To those I ask, why not? Because this set of young authors have bypassed traditional gatekeepers who have always restricted their work? And instead, are seeking to build their own readerships?
“I believe that Instagram has democratised the art of poetry. The idea that it has dumbed it down baffles me. When I began using Instagram, I was a broke student, I came from a working class family. My mum doesn’t speak English. My dad’s a truck driver. And no one in our social circle knew anyone in any industry that might have been able to give me advice on how and where to get my work seen. If it were not for the internet, and the age of social media, I, a Punjabi Sikh woman writing about themes that were impacting her and those around her would have never been published in a traditional Western space. Especially on a continent where the experiences of women of colour are easily derided and rarely offered publishing deals.
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“Historically, young women in literature have been disempowered over and over again. And when teenage girls largely embrace something, that something is seen as frivolous and silly. Which is quite problematic. This is a phenomena that happens beyond poetry and literature. And it’s a corrosive mindset that has been used to demean and disparage young women in every industry.
“Rather, these young women readers who are using poetry to articulate their experiences should be applauded. They’re using a medium to discuss topics that have been so taboo through much of their lives: like domestic abuse, sexual violence, female pleasure, and so on. Their right to articulate their experiences in ways they see fit matters much more.”
“I am often quite conversational in my poetry and I feel that in order to do that I have to think beyond mediums,” says London-based poet, model, filmmaker and environmental campaigner Wilson Oryema. “Instagram is an easy way of showing work, but I rarely create poems solely for it, though sometimes I make short films of my poems for the platform. Itʼs a good way to test ideas. Of course you can use punctuation and grammatical errors to intensify your words.
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“For the most part the medium holds little to no influence for me. All forms of poetry are important for the progression of the craft. Whether someone wants to use 10 lines or two to describe how they feel. Whether someone wants to rhyme their poems in musical tone or wants their poem to read deadpan. All expressions are still valid and help us all to learn from each other and collectively push the art form ahead, from which the next generations will take the reigns.
“Right now Iʼm really excited for my next book of poems, which should be coming out later this year. Itʼs always a challenge to think of new ways to communicate ideas and the things I care about, and this might be my hardest challenge yet.”
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Dubbed “the unofficial Poet Laureate of Twitter”, Brian Bilston – whose new book, a poetry-fiction hybrid titled Diary of a Somebody is out in June – finds inspiration just about everywhere: “People, politics, the environment, injustice, relationships, bin days.”
“I also get ideas from social media itself: other people’s posts, their creativity, their comments, their jokes. Instagram a very immediate way to interact with an audience. I’m not a confident performer in real life; the prospect of getting up and reading my poems in front of an audience fills me with dread, if not mild terror. But social media has always provided a convenient screen for me to hide behind and my interactions with others on it have rarely been anything other than positive.
“Until social media came along, you had to go out of your way to find poetry; you’d have to go into a bookshop and buy a book, or head out of your house to see a performance. Unless, you were already ‘into’ poetry, it’s unlikely you would do such things. But social media helps to place poetry into people’s everyday lives. It’s there in your feed when you’re looking at the news, catching up on what’s happened, or simply talking to friends. It’s become easy to share, and a poem that resonates with an event or concern that’s happening in the real world or in your own life is suddenly so much easier to share. Of course, this often resonates with a younger audience but in my experience, the same can be said of older generations, too. The fact that the world is currently full of big news (fake or otherwise) – the environment, Trump, Brexit etc – really plays into this, too.
“Poetry has always been a broad church and an incredibly difficult word to define. We shouldn’t wed poetry to being ‘one thing’ or having ‘one approach’. There’s plenty of room under that word for all kinds of writing: ‘difficult’ poetry, spoken word, rap, limericks, rhymed verse, free verse, haiku etc. Some of these approaches will, by their very nature, be more popular than others. Different kinds of poetry appeal to different audiences. Some people like a bit of everything. In that regard, I think it’s like music. All those genres – classical, pop, rock, jazz, folk, grime – some of them speak to something inside us, and provoke an emotional or physical response, and some of them may not. But regardless, it’s still music.”
“Instagram is a medium of publication, not a genre of poetry,” says Gill, who was 12 years old when she first started writing poetry. “When I first started publishing my work online, 11 years ago, the internet was very different. I was using Wordpress and Deviantart, under an anonymous handle. Social media [came later, and has turned out to be] a user-friendly way to communicate between art and audience. It is an interesting medium and great for showing excerpts of your work or a creative process, but it has visual constraints. Ultimately, the medium does not matter as much as the words do. Being a creative person is like being constantly on a treasure hunt inside your own head for ideas, the way you are going to explore them and express them.
“Personally, I believe not a single creative person can claim to ever be the best at what we do, and every day is a humbling learning curve to do better, so it’s probably best to just focus on actually evolving our own work than criticising other people on the quality of theirs.” Gill’s latest work, the first of a series of books on mythological retellings, is due to be published later this year.
Source : https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/best-poets-on-instagram