Poetry is a wonderful thing: from the dust of letters it constructs an image -even if it’s only seen for a flash- that is unparalleled by normal prose. Maybe it is the way that rhythm functions, or how metre creates a skeleton for the meaning to skid from word to word. Or perhaps it is the freedom of blank verse- the way words are dashed onto the page, liberated from grammatical judgement.
However, poetry is not so wonderful when it is displayed on Instagram.
Judging by aesthetics, one might be fooled into thinking that the time spent on presentation was also mirrored in the writing process. How innocent you would be.
Evidently, all one needs for a successful poem is your musing type-written onto artisanal paper, often with a jaunty flower on the side or expressive doodle.
Now I would hardly say that the imagery or sentiment created by this little message by Hayley MacLeod here is particularly artfully done, or indeed moving at all. I would whip out the violin and throw roses in despair, not at the poem’s words, but in despair of how low the standards are becoming- but it seems like half the job is already done.
The problem with Instagram-poetry is that it is not poetry at all. It is simply a mixture of emotions vomited onto a page, and not even a pretty background can hide that.
It is quickly evident when one starts scrolling through the Instagram pages that it does not take much to become a “poet”. You simply need to
Tears, applause and adulation will ensue, I promise you. This post by the (deep breath) famous Rupi Kaur received 351,000 likes.
In light of this, it is absolutely devastating to think that laudable young poets, such as the winners of the Foyle Award, will be overlooked, struggling to sell copies of their work despite their enormous talent, when people walk around reading this absolute travesty instead. Kaur’s work is pitiful. No wonder she can churn out books so quickly, all she has to do is think of a neat sentence, press the space button a few times and voila. But what is more distasteful is how many people buy into her work. She has 3.6 million followers. And they all think of themselves as indulging in literature on their hourly Instagram scroll, when really the truth is far from it.
The real problem is that people think this is proper literature
Do you even know who your national poetry laureate is anymore? They used to be important; have a status of sorts. Now…not so much, and the reigning problem is that people think that content like this
is of a high poetic standard. That this “Greison Crow” is like a cooler, more hip, 21st Century Keats. NO. You do not get cooler than writing about Autumn which such deftness that even GCSE students weep. (Some of them. The decent ones.)
When discussing this topic, one of my friends said that this Insta-poetry could be a “gate-way drug”
They start on this lighter content and move onto more literary ground once they’ve found their feet. This is simply a naïve perspective. People view this poetry in passing, whilst on their feed, and then think no more about it. It is not like they are in the library, and are about to take out another tome by Sugercoat-my-Heart and then change their minds and pick Plath instead. I wish. No, the medium is the message. But, on the topic of books, something worse has happened.
Actually, they have infiltrated our bookshelves
Netgalley has given me two advanced reading copies of two so-called poets. One was called “Between You and These Bones” by F.D Soul. The “F.D” stands for “Feathered Down” (all you need to know really). One of the poems in there was called A VOW:
you will not always be this war.”
Another favourite poem of mine was A NOTE FROM BOOK ONE:
“Thank God for the stubbornness
WOWEE. That really deserved a fat publishing deal did it not. I feel touched by an inordinate sense of distaste. Yes, having organs which regenerate and are resistant to disease is great. But this is not a fact which deserves to be indented in your book, Ms. F.D Soul. Another ARC was Nocturnal by Wilder and in short those poems were broadly the same except a bit longer and with references to the sea and the sky and sunsets and probably dolphins too, who knows at this point. At least the formatting was visually appealing. Full marks for effort. But from all this we can take away one thing. We are in an epidemic. Like the opposite of a poetry Golden Era. A Black Era, perhaps. Because now words mean nothing. They are tabbed and put intp nice font, but cumulatively they just carry no sentiment whatsoever, wistfully referring to “you”, their lost boyfriend, how they carried you in their heart but you were too heavy….
So, in short, Instagram Poetry really should be banned, for everyone’s sake.