I love / the internet / there are so many / memes.
Would you consider this a poem? Or is it a generalized sentence that I cut up for dramatic effect? This seems to be the formula for most Instagram poetry (charmingly shortened to “instapoetry”) that goes wildly viral. And while I personally believe that a lot of it isn’t very good, no one can deny the hundreds of thousands of people double-tapping their screens when they scroll by a cut-up sentence like this either.
Many poetry enthusiasts are wildly against it while others are trying to be more accepting of this new, digestible form. Some are trying to tear down the old, gatekeeping institution of poetry as too difficult and too highbrow, wondering why these cut-up statements can’t be considered legitimate art while some just scoff at the idea that it could ever be art.
We can definitely say that instapoetry has boosted poetry sales and gotten more people interested in the art form, sure–but many aren’t satisfied with just the monetary aspect of things. What about the appreciation aspect? The part that celebrates quality?
Any visit to a bookstore will see shelves of poetry stacked with the names of people who rose to fame on social media. Rupi Kaur, R.M. Drake, etc. They sit side by side with Sylvia Plath and Tracy K. Smith. And because they’re stacked under “poetry” (as there are no special “instapoetry” sections), it leads us to ask: Is it poetry of hundreds of thousands clamor for it and consider it to be?
I studied writing and, like many who put up their own opinions and articles about instapoetry, spent a long long time workshopping, writing, and reading poetry. A lot of these writers and poets are miffed at this new form because it completely derails from what many spent years studying and trying to perfect. While I am of the opinion that people can enjoy what they want, I have to admit that even I have to hold back a snide laugh when encountering a reposted Instapoem on my feed. But for the most part, I think people should just be free to enjoy what they do.
A lot of the criticism against Instapoetry has to do with the quality and how generalized it is. The language is consistently limp and the statements they make are unoriginal, regurgitated expressions of feelings that sound like thesis statements for sad love songs. They want so much to cater to a universal audience and tap into a universal feeling that they have no anchor–they become so unspecific that beyond their initial seemingly-wise impression, they don’t really mean anything.
However, others like that it’s so easy t understand. It’s bite-sized, not too long, and uncomplicated. And so they can sort of make an immediate connection that some more seasoned writers claim to be superficial. The emotional punch is still there, sure, but does it resound in a very profound way?
A lot of the arguments against the double-tap-hungry art form like to say that because these cut-up sentences are too bland and without any specificity that the impact they make is not as strong as it could be. That’s pretty subjective, yes, but is there a way to measure that? And maybe the fact that people make these poems their phone wallpapers or computer backgrounds might just have a counter to the impact argument.
People who do love instapoetry bring up how it’s challenged an art form that was once seen as way too complicated and too deep. Instead of something daunting, people see it as refreshing and engaging, an art that really adjusts to be the one to meet you head-on rather than you adjusting to understand it. It peels back all the layers that many dread to dissect to deliver a simplified statement. And sometimes people just want the heart of something, the core, and not have to pull back so many other meanings.
Poetry now is something they can engage with in plain language and understand at a glance. And they love it. And for many, it becomes a path to discovering some of the classics. They’re slowly exposed to poets outside of their apps, ones who started out in books and pages. And while this doesn’t happen to everyone who reads instapoetry, it at least opens up conversation.
And who’s to determine the authority on poetry? I may find myself laughing a little in the face of some of these poems when I see them but I’m no expert, I’m not the poetry god, neither are my professors who are poets (whom I love), nor are their professors. Academics who dedicate their lives to the craft may have more knowledge, yes, but are they the definitive voice?
I still personally dislike instapoetry. Not that I detest it, it just isn’t impactful to me–but that’s because I was exposed to other poetic voices, too. Those poems with all their specifics and imagery and every meticulous aspect that poetry has (that I love) are what move me. But to hate instapoetry just because it doesn’t resemble my own favorites? It seems like a lot of energy wasted. And while instapoetry and their ridiculous line-cuts will always be an inside joke with myself and my writer buddies, I still believe in letting people like what they like.
So is instapoetry real poetry? In the eyes of experts, calling it poetry is a huge reach, one they disagree with. But just because it’s a reach does that automatically disqualify it? Maybe not. Maybe to them, it’s bad poetry, too raw, too unfiltered, not quite perfected. Maybe it’s something that could become a poem. Maybe it’s part of a bigger poem that’s yet to be written.
What do you think about this? Let us know!