Post by Dylan Karlsson
This spring, Westwind is launching an instapoetry series on our Instagram account @westwinducla, lending our platform as a communal space for sharing instapoems by students, readers, and writers alike. Instapoetry appears on our feeds, on bestseller lists, and in our poetic discourse, often derisively, with undermining sentiment or parody. Despite the abundance of conversation and speculation about the merits of instapoetry, there is a lack of critical, serious engagement with the form. Westwind’s very own Tatianna Giron contended with critiques of Rupi Kaur’s work in her article. The go-to critique of instapoetry made by critics, that it is over-commercial, obsessed with branding and image, could just as easily be waged against the academic standard-holders of “Poetry with a capital P.”
As poet Momtaza Mehri writes in her piece Letters From a Young (Female) Poet, “For some, Instagram and Pinterest will serve as a gateway drug into more complex and messy renderings of the human experience. This is especially true for younger, budding poets who are already hyper-aware of the feminized and racialized biases they will have to contend with. Young poets who want to experiment and grow don’t need to be patronized or lectured to about Real Poetry™.”
Poetry is always in flux, changing hands and mutating its structure, and along with it, audience and market. To begin to limit the definition of poetry would be to limit its potential, and to deny the many young poets, many of whom are women of color, just beginning their practice and career as writers. In envisioning the medium’s future, we should be working towards open access to tools of community and criticism, not expending our energy on a discourse that merely builds fortifications for a professional class of poets.
As so many have articulated, poetry is not a zero-sum game, and so, acceptance of a new poetic community should not be predicated on assimilation into a singular poetic mold. Rather, new poetic forms can cohere new communities, which soon flourish into outgrowths of creation and further potential. In taking poetry to the realm of social media, even with all the entanglements that terrain presents, we are reminded of poetry’s tangible utility: how it can foster community, offer a sense of awareness and belonging, and promote resilience and mental health care. The practice of poets Nayyirah Waheed and Yrsa Daley-Ward is one attuned to healing and self-discovery, their work reading like meditations for a healthy practice of living through trauma and doubt. Still, the nascent instapoetry community is growing and exploring the possibilities for the medium.
In support of instapoets, with or without a “following,” Westwind invites submissions of your work to our Instagram page. We encourage a departure from the typical marketing-termed “engagement,” to a critical engagement with the words and work of active and practicing poets.