A New Age of Poetry

vor 2 Monaten

Our generation is undergoing a Poetic Renaissance

Growing up, my encounters with poetry were rather brief, mainly limited to high school lessons. As a German student, I remember working through the lines of Goethe and Schiller; later moving to Australia, I dearly recall analyzing all of Sylvia Plath. Without really understanding why, I always knew which poetry I thought was good and which ones were not . Unlike many of my fellow students, I actually enjoyed poetry … but not so much that I would continue reading it after graduation.

Somehow I always felt poetry was this mysterious niche product which only a certain elite of higher educational circles had access to. But lately, I feel poetry is everywhere:
On the 20th of January 22-year-old, Amanda Gorman moved the world with her beautiful poem at President Biden’s inauguration T his month, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry surprised a teen poetry class by crashing their zoom meeting under the name „DoS“. Looking back, I realize that poetry has always been intertwined with pop culture. Lisa Simpson has been a huge fan of Emily Dickinson through all seasons. In an unforgettable scene from Mad Men, Don Draper recites Frank O’Hara.And let’s not forget about the 1989 film ‚Dead Poets Society‘ that won an Academy Award, two BAFTAs, and a handful of Golden Globe nominations, beloved around the world.

And still, poetry feels more present today than it ever has been in recent years, and perhaps the answer to this is an evergreen: Instagram. Social media seems to have torn down the walls around a field long-perceived as highbrow, exclusive, and traditional. Social media has managed to bring poetry and pop culture closer together than ever, opening it up for young poets and readers alike. With over 52 million hastagged posts on Instagram, you’ve likely come across at least one Instapoet in your explore tab.
The new medium not only helps spread the pre-existing word, but it is also opening up younger audiences to new possibilities of modern ways to express their thoughts and feelings. What is poetry if not that?While once limited to a blank sheet of paper, poets can now present their work aesthetically, and experiment in new forms and structure. But of course these exact advantages are also the reason Instagram poets receive backlash, being accused of ruining the traditional art form, as the poet Rebecca Watts argues in her essay „The Cult of the Noble Amateur.“ Others say today’s poems are simply different. Rather than tackling complex subjects, millennials have chosen a simpler approach: o ne that is rather prose-like, and an imitation of the Confessional Movement, from the likes of the poets John Berryman and Sylvia Plath.

It is safe to assume that the rise of instagram poets will surely have lasting effects on the history of poetry, literature, and digital art.

Some contemporary poets have even gained worldwide fame through posting their work online. A case study in how dramatically the world of poetry has changed over recent years is the 28-year-old Canadian poet and illustrator Rupi Kaur, who counts over 4 million instagram followers. Her first collection ‚milk & honey‘ has been translated into 40 languages ​​and has sold 3.5 million copies (and counting). She made the Forbes 30 under 30 list (not to mention she made it onto the cover of Fräulein last year!) Since her first publication of milk & honey, the poetry genre has become one of the fastest growing categories in book publishing.This gives younger generations the possibility to archive what most of their great predecessors couldn’t: they can actually make money from their words. Building their own mini-brands, many of the younger poets harness e-commerce to supplement their income. They sell merchandise and „hand-typed poems of your choice“ in shadow box frames. Atticus, one of the most successful social media poets of our time, features a shop called the Atticus Collective, where products range from $ 35 posters to $ 174 talismans. Their popularity makes them valuable to other brands, offering even bigger ways to commodify their words. Cleo Wade’s poetry has been displayed in Gucci advertisements, embroidered on Nike sneakers and manufactured across dishes sold by boutique homeware stores.

All of this proves the point that poetry is far from being dead. It has never been more alive. Even a fast paced and multi-tasking digital generation seems to long for some lines of poetry, be it on their Instagram feed, their afternoon coffee mug, or their actual book collection. Here are some poets you shouldn’t miss out on, having found their home in the digital landscape:

Rupi Kaur has become a literature icon since her first book release of Milk and Honey in 2014 and has performed her poetry all around the world with great success ever since. Her short and direct proms are centered around themes of love, loss, trauma, healing, femininity, race, and revolution.

Cleo Wade is an American poet, artist, and speaker living in New York City. Many consider her a powerful force of positivity and a creative activist, writing about self-love, feminism, community building, and social justice. Wade also does art installations and writes for The New York Times. Two years ago she published her first book ‚Heart Talk.‘

Lang Leav is an internationally-bestselling poet and novelist. In 2013, she released her first book ‚Love & Misadventure‘ and has published five poetry collections more over the years. Her themes circle around love, loss, and female empowerment, and she is also recognized as a talented artist.

Atticus is the most mysterious among today’s famous Instagram poets. The young Canadian writer refuses to reveal his identity and wears masks for all publicized pictures and interviews. His poignant poems seek to explore life’s most exhilarating, as well as most relatable, experiences.

Nikita Gill is a popular poet and author who has released four poetry collection since her first publishing of Wild Embers in 2017. Gill writes about loss, suffering, migration and displacement and has been met with tremendous following and support ever since she first shared her work on social media.

Text by Ann-Kathrin Lietz
Images from Rupi Kaur and Cleo Wade’s Instagram

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