Poetry is having a moment. A BIG moment. Welcome to the age of “Instapoets”!
Instapoets—so named because their popularity started on Instagram—have built massive online followings across multiple social media platforms and have even forged paths into the big-name print best-seller lists. Their lively and passionate fan base is staggering—especially since prose has long been regarded by traditional publishers as more popular (and lucrative) than poetry. At Writer’s Relief, we’ve noticed that on the Internet, poems can go viral in the blink of an eye. With mobbed book signings and dollars from fans and advertisers pouring in, Instapoets challenge the idea that making a living from poetry is impossible for modern writers.
So who are these poetry Internet superstars? Here are a few of the hottest names in online poetry right now!
Instapoets You Should Know: Fresh Voices In Social Media Poetry
Rupi Kaur. Kaur is arguably the biggest name in poetry right now on the Internet and in bookstores, thanks in part to her multi-week New York Times best-selling collections. The queen of the Instapoets, Kaur’s spare, confessional poems share barefaced, hard-won truths in bite-sized, quotable lines that are perfect for social sharing. She currently has over 2.5 million followers on Instagram alone.
Lang Leav. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, raised in Australia, and living in New Zealand, Leav’s social media following fell in love with her love poems, which explore passion, desire, heartbreak, trust, and relationship issues. The poet had about 50,000 followers on Tumblr when she published her first collection, and her collections have sold more than 300,000 copies. Leav’s verses have nearly a half-million followers on Instagram.
Christopher Poindexter. With about 350,000 Instagram followers to date, Poindexter’s poems are widely celebrated among fans for being able to melt your heart and/or soul. His photographs—which embrace a grunge-rock sensibility—combined with his unabashedly emotional love poems have won him a large following. And he has no qualms about monetizing: along with his published collections, fans can buy clothing and gear featuring beloved quotes.
Tommy Pico. The release of Pico’s first book, IRL—an epic poem in the form of an extended text message—landed him the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize. Many of his poems are centered on a character named Teebs (a queer Native American poet born on a reservation who leaves home to go to school), who mirrors the author’s life experiences. His vibrant online following and widespread poetry quotes earn him a spot on our poetry celebrity list.
Warsan Shire. Shire writes about the immigrant experience (among other things), sharing the complicated emotions that arise when heritage, sex, skin color, and geography tangle. She was named the first Young Poet Laureate for London at the age of twenty-five. Beyoncé is a big fan!
If you’re intrigued by these social media poetry celebrities, find more Instapoets here.
Instapoets may have huge reputations on social media for touching the hearts of millions of readers. But critical questions remain about the staying power of their verse. Some critics condemn most—if not all—viral poetry as little more than spruced-up teen angst. But supporters argue that “old guard” poets have always regarded the works of fresh new voices with furrowed brows and grumpy mutterings.
Personally, we feel that every poet should be evaluated on his or her own personal merits—regardless of whether admiration comes from roomfuls of academics or coffee shops full of teens who are falling in love with poems for the first time.
Will online literary magazines be able to tap into the thriving market of verse-hungry readers? Will we see an upsurge in confessional poetry in big-name literary magazines? Could it be possible that poetry will appear in mainstream magazines as well? Might poets—gasp!—actually make some money for doing what they love?
Only time will tell if today’s moment will become a new anthem for the future of poetry. In the meantime, we’re keeping our eyes peeled for the exciting new changes that Instapoets have inspired.
Question: The rise of the Instapoet: Good for poetry? Or not so much?