‘Instapoets’ are making poetry cool again

Kaur blimey: Rupi Kaur, an Indian-born Canadian poet, has sold millions of books.

Is “Instapoetry” any good? A new generation of writers are finding success by publishing their short poems on social media. They are popular, but there is a backlash against their work.

What’s happening

For the first time in decades, poetry is gaining popularity in the US. The number of Americans who say they read poems has risen from 6.7% in 2012 to 11.7% in 2017. Poetry sales are also booming in the UK. Experts put this down to a new generation of poets who reach people through social media.

Find out more

“she was music / but he had his ears cut off”

This is a poem by Rupi Kaur, the most successful poet in the world right now. Kaur shares her poetry on Instagram, where she has 2.7 million followers. She has also published two bestselling books.

Kaur has been called an “Instapoet”. This word describes writers who post short, simple poems on social media. They often write about relationships and identity; many are women and/or non-white. Some prefer spoken word: they recite their poems, and upload the videos to YouTube.

They may sell well, but the Instapoets are also hated by many. Critics (including poets) accuse them of being unoriginal, and of dumbing poetry down. Some make fun of them with satirical verses.

Should we all get into Instapoetry?

Some say…

Definitely not! Poetry is meant to express complex feelings in an original, sophisticated way. Instapoets just write down their thoughts and pass them off as poems. If people read too many of them, they will expect all poetry to be that short and easy. They will then have a hard time reading geniuses like Shakespeare or Sylvia Plath. How sad.

Others think…

Don’t be so snobbish. Poetry does not have to be written a certain way. All that matters is that people get something out of reading it. Instapoets are making poetry cool, which can only be good. Plus, they makes social media a better place: thanks to them, we spend less time watching cat videos and more time thinking about issues that matter.

You Decide

  1. Does reading poetry make you a better person?

Activities

  1. Write a short poem (no more than 50 words). If you feel confident, post it online!

Some People Say...

“The truth is I never even understood the poetry we were given at school.”

Rupi Kaur

What do you think?

Word Watch

Americans
These statistics come from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Satirical
“Satire” is when someone criticises something in a funny or mocking way.
Sophisticated
Advanced, intelligent.
Sylvia Plath
(1932-63) A very famous American poet and novelist. She committed suicide after struggling with depression.
Snobbish
A “snob” is a person who thinks that their tastes are better than other people’s.

Subjects

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