Instagram(Insta) bred poets have popularized a contemporary form of poetry which often casts a shadow on the suitability of the content being deemed as ‘poetry’
Poetic literature under the Indian school curriculum, acquainted the students to world renowned poetic geniuses. Robert Frost, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, Vikram Seth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, are just a few that I remember from the top of my head. Their poems were on different themes, but they all very obviously belonged to the realm of poetry. They were often not easy to comprehend and suggested a need for familiarity with the author’s written style to truly understand the context. The poets audaciously used poetic license to create the story they wanted to tell. Intensity of emotion that would otherwise require several pages to fully unravel, were brilliantly captured in a few lines. To my surprise, the popular poets I discovered on Insta were far from this known concept of poetry. On a positive note I found Insta poems interesting and engaging. I also found them empathetic and inspiring. However, I couldn’t ignore the rudimentary nature of the poems. Their expression of thought seemed to peak at a very basic level, like a song on a piano with limited chords. Credit where credit is due, the poems don’t make it a challenge to unbox the message and instead try to effectively convey the point. However, for some key reasons that I’ll move on to, the poems have traded off the charm of poetry for easier depiction of thought. The poems seldom paint a picture, they rather describe it. Metaphors, imagery and verse are rarely reflected in the poems; they are more like a message broken down in multiple lines. Inevitably, the simplicity of this form of ‘poetry’ makes it seem doable. In part, that is good news as it provides a kickstart platform for amateur poets to experiment with their writing style but unfortunately, it comes at a cost. The cost being that the meaning of poetry is lost on many since its more about concisely conveying a message rather than weaving a story to convey the message.
A common theme across most poems is love, a topic which easily draws empathy and subsequently drives the follower count. Poems tend to be driven solely from personal experiences and don’t challenge the imagination. Poetry that is heartfelt or deep need not involve a first-person experience. To elaborate, I take the example of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a famous poem that gave detailed account of sailors at sea that tempted fate by engaging in condemnable actions. Apparently, the idea was inspired by the poet’s friend’s dream of a ‘skeleton ship’. Some also say that the poet had never sailed at sea and yet was able to beautifully illustrate the story by diving into his imagination. Simply put, it wouldn’t be called ‘creative writing’ if imagination didn’t play a role.
The other peculiar feature of Insta poems is the confusion between a poem, a quote and a short story. I am not saying that long poems conform to the rules of poetry but Insta poetry seems to be short mainly due to a content driven mindset that the app thrives on. People feel a need to constantly post content to remain in the public eye and maintain popularity. A pressure to publish posts even when the creativity well is dry, leads to poetry transforming into epigrams which are at best self-quoted quotes and at worst a generic comment. Epigrams are essentially satirical or clever in nature; they need wit to be properly written and hence would also be typically difficult to type out at the drop of a hat.
My two cents on the subject may sound grouchy but it’s because a lot of trending poets out there were Insta born and being termed as ‘poets’ places them near the ranks of the classic poets, a truly big responsibility. Fortunately, I have come across interview accounts of some popular poets talking about taking a literature class or picking up a book of poems to learn more about poetry ‘in situ’. I am not saying you need a how-to-guide to write poetry but having a thirst to better it would help sustain quality poetry by these new age poets. Otherwise, in some cases, the misguided popularity could lull them into believing that every thought that stumbles upon their mind is worth publishing. Indeed, these poets are exploring a new form of poetry which is probably best suited for today’s hurried world where several exabytes of content are generated each day, but their success may usher in an era where a basic message knotted in some words, starts being deemed as poetry.