Caitlin Disken discusses the rise of poetry’s popularity in contemporary culture, caused partly by Instagram.
Cast your minds back to GCSE English Literature. Chances are that the poetry you studied was from a tatty anthology with a cringy name like Moon on the Tides. Split into thematic sections, even somebody who loves reading as much as I do wasn’t exactly inspired by it. It wasn’t the epitome of cool. Even the well-written, enjoyable poems had the joy squeezed out of them by studying them in a stuffy classroom whilst having essay-writing acronyms like ‘PEE’ (point, evidence, explanation) being shoved down your throat.
Recently, however, there has been a poetry renaissance even among my own Moon on the Tides generation. The rise of social media sites, especially Instagram, has meant that poetry has never been more accessible. Love her or hate her, it’s undeniable that poets such as Rupi Kaur have contributed to the increasing popularity of poetry. Kaur used Tumblr and then Instagram as platforms to showcase her bitesize poems, before her debut collection milk & honey was published in 2014.
Despite some critics denouncing Kaur’s poetry as amateurish, Kaur has since outsold Homer, a feat that has contributed to an increasing appreciation of poetry.
Despite some critics denouncing Kaur’s poetry as amateurish, Kaur has since outsold Homer, a feat that has contributed to an increasing appreciation of poetry. Her work has drawn people into the poetry sections of bookshops worldwide, increasing the chances of the work of lesser known poets being read and appreciated.
The role of Instagram in this renewed appreciation of poetry cannot be understated. A search for ‘#poetry’ on the app yields 29.3 million results, far outstripping the number of posts for many other popular pastimes, including basketball, skiing, and baking. It’s also never been more popular to write poetry, either, with the hashtag ‘#poetsofinstagram’ enabling a multitude of budding poets to share their work to a global audience. Poetry has long been the domain of men, yet the ability for anybody to share their work means that poetry is no longer seen as the elite pastime of old, white men, but a form of writing that anybody can try.
Conversations about poetry are now something anybody can engage in, not just those who choose to study English Literature at university.
Poetry’s presence on social media sites has also led to the work of more traditional poets being praised. Over the last few years, I’ve seen increased visibility being given to the work of Sylvia Plath in particular. A quick Google search and all of Plath’s poetry is available in its entirety, meaning it’s no longer necessary to buy a book of poetry in order to appreciate some of our most talented poets. This has enabled new conversations to open up regarding the differing contemporary critical attitudes towards Plath’s, and ex-husband Ted Hughes’, poetry. Conversations about poetry are now something anybody can engage in, not just those who choose to study English Literature at university. I’d even go as far to argue that poetry is now one of the most accessible art forms.
In today’s fast-paced world, we don’t always have time to read a novel. But there’s time to read a quick poem on our commute, or when we have a spare hour. Poems are beautiful, lyrical, and emotional, and often say in four hundred words what a novel says in forty thousand. Let’s hope this appreciation for poetry doesn’t die out.