you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out
i was not made with a lightness in my tongue
so i could be easy to swallow
i was made heavy
half blade and half silk
difficult to forget but
not easy for the mind to follow
Rupi Kaur’s first book, “Milk and Honey,” has sold over 3.5 million copies and still climbing. Unsurprisingly, her wild success found its start online. With nearly four million followers, Kaur has easily become one of today’s most recognizable poets. And in a world sculpted by social media influence, nearly anyone can find fame and fortune with enough double taps, poets included.
But not everyone’s happy about it. The academic literary world has been significantly less welcoming to this new type of poetry. Critics claim that the fast-paced nature of Instagram diminishes the value of the content shared on it. They say that scrolling through poetry could never produce the same impact as turning pages and that the platform’s accessibility fails to weed out those with “actual” artistic merit.
But, the very beauty of art is its subjectivity, its capacity to appeal to different people in all kinds of forms. Despite the views of some academics, there exists no central authority on the value of poetry. The value comes from what is felt by individual readers. Based on this, it seems more accurate to say that these critics are afraid of how poetry is changing. Indeed, every thread of culture evolves with time and technology. Instagram just happens to be the latest development.
Social media can open up a world of possibilities for a genre that hasn’t been mainstream in a while. Insta-poetry reaches global audiences and individuals who may otherwise have no inclination to pick up a physical collection of poems. Instagram makes poetry available to everyone which facilitates its popularity.
The platform has also become an avenue through which artists can more easily access traditional publishing. In fact, Insta-poets like Rupi Kaur, have taken over the print genre as well as online; proof that Instagram is not just a waste-bin into which unpublishable drafts get thrown. Instead, it’s a tool artists use to establish themselves, to share their work, gain a following and maybe even earn a living doing what they love. Not every poet wishes to publish their work on social media, some prefer to stick to pen and paper. Either way, the validity of art is not determined by the medium through which it is consumed, but by how well it embeds itself within the hearts of others.