The radical, democratising power of Instagram poetry

Image: vicky leta/mashable

We millennials like our poetry typed out in neat fonts on rustic pastel backgrounds, centred in a tiny square on a small screen. We read short, simple, and relatable poems which may strike a chord with us for a second before we scroll on to the next Timothée Chalamet appreciation post or #brunch pic.

I’m talking, of course, about poetry native to Instagram. A budding genre scoffed by the literary community but loved by millions of young readers. 

This Insta-friendly verse, with its distinct tone and aesthetic, is serving sincerity and feeling in the place we need it the most: the ever ironic, cynical internet. It’s this vulnerability on a platform that’s more-often-than-not replete with inauthenticity and polished veneers that makes it so striking. 

Roll your eyes all you like, but Instagram poets are defining the genre for the millennial generation with a radical democratisation and push for diversity in the poetry world. Their work is accessible in more than one sense of the word, and while the critics may not always like it, their work is now being celebrated as “gateway poetry” — and that can only be a good thing. 

Household names in the Instagram poetry realm are now also recognised names in bookstores and the literary world in general. The most famous poet of Instagram is 25-year-old Rupi Kaur, whose poetry has — apart from securing seven-figure sales numbers — reached the level of popularity and recognisability where it is now a (frankly hilarious) meme. R.M. Drake, or Robert Macias, is perhaps best known for being reposted by the Kardashians, but he is also the author of several bestsellers. British poets Charly Cox (read her poem about kale) and queer poet Yrsa Daley Ward are making strides in Europe. Not to mention Nayyirah Waheed (read up on her plagiarism dispute with Kaur for real-life Insta poet drama), Tyler Knott Gregson, Amanda Lovelace, and Lang Leav. 

This is a diverse group of poets, many of whom have long since graduated from Instagram to print poetry, causing some to argue that the term”Instagram poet” is a lazy one, that their medium is the least interesting thing about them. But these poets do have more in common than their platform of choice, poetry experts say. The Instagram poets have given birth to a genre of their own.

“What the poets of Instagram tend to have in common is what I would call emotional relatability or accessibility, and a tone and vocabulary that is reminiscent of the self-help or self-improvement movement — many read like motivational quotes,” says Dr Eleanor Spencer-Regan, digital director of the Institute of Poetry and Poetics at Durham University.

“It is not really about complex language, it is more about easily translatable universal emotions.”

It is precisely this relatability that makes Instagram poetry so resonant among millennials. Rather than alienating a young audience with convoluted language or complicated form, the ultimate goal of the Insta poets is always to connect directly with their audience. 

Judith Palmer, Director of the Poetry Society, says that one of the defining characteristics of Instagram poetry is that it’s less about flexing your linguistic muscles and more about gaining instant understanding from readers. “The language isn’t often being pushed and I don’t see a complex vocabulary,” says Palmer. “It is not really about complex language, it is more about easily translatable universal emotions.”

While short form diary-style writing has been an internet culture staple pretty much since the days of LiveJournal, Insta poets are breaking new ground by insisting that their writing is poetry and demanding it be viewed and respected as such.

According to Martha Sprackland, Associate Editor at Poetry London, that’s one of the things that sets high profile Insta poets apart from your average inspirational quote account. 

“There has long been light verse, slogans, inspirational quotes, whatever else; what’s more recent is their determination to be included in the bounds of ‘poetry,'” Sprackland tells Mashable. Per Sprackland, their dedication to belonging in the poetry genre is part of what has helped them gather an eager young audience around poetry. “I know that the rise of Instagram poetry has changed the perception of ‘poetry’ as a whole for large numbers of young people,” says Sprackland. 

While Instagram poets have achieved great mainstream commercial success, literary critics have unsparingly criticised them and their supposedly “amateur” writing. With their style and medium of choice, they are leading a commercialisation of the poetry genre and diluting the quality of poetry, a once high-brow literary genre. 

Poet Rebecca Watts argues in the poetry journal PN Review that Instagram poets are ruining poetry as an art form. “In the redefinition of poetry as ‘short-form communication’ the floodgates have been opened, writes Watts. “The reader is dead: long live consumer-driven content and the ‘instant gratification’ this affords,” Watts writes in the piece entitled ‘The Cult of the Noble Amateur.’ 

Watts wants the literary community to “stop celebrating amateurism and ignorance in our poetry, ” and insists that the size of one’s following says nothing of the quality of the writing (Watts even goes as far as to make a comparison to Donald Trump).

There is of course some truth to the point that a massive following does not ensure quality, as one trickster poet attempted to prove when he obtained thousands of followers writing four word poems on Instagram. 

But, according to the poetry experts, we’re looking at emerging poetry the wrong way. The exposure that Instagram has brought to the genre is a good thing, despite the fact that they’re taking the genre in a direction that the critics might not like. 

“What are those critics doing over there?” Sprackland asks. “It’s not for them. It’s a different genre, and it’s daft to try and approach it bristling with all the usual tools of the ‘contemporary page poetry’ critic,” Sprackland says. “It’s not a case of merit, but of misfiling, of mislabelling, and then a wilful refusal to admit that mislabelling for fear of either causing offence or appearing snobbish.”

But, this critical snobbery to newcomers to a genre isn’t exactly a new thing. Spencer-Regan points out that frowning upon art in a new more accessible medium it is “definitely not a new response.” 

“The emergence of this new kind of poetry can really make us question what poetry is and what makes it good. But these poets do reach large audiences, and their work clearly resonates with a lot of people — though it may not be to the personal taste of many academics and literary critics,” says Spencer-Regan. 

“It’s giving opportunities to many women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people who publicly disclose mental illnesses.”

Spencer-Regan argues that the Instagram poets have, in fact, succeeded at securing more diversity in a genre traditionally perceived to be dominated by white, straight people (both when it comes to both readers and writers). Spencer-Regan argues that these poets and their strategic use of social platforms have in fact reinvigorated and democratised the poetry world. 

“This is a radically democratic method of publishing that is giving opportunities to many women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people who publicly disclose mental illnesses,” says Spencer-Regan. “These people are rejecting the old rules of a literary world that they feel may have rejected them.”

According to Palmer of The Poetry Society, the Insta poets have successfully managed to bring poetry into people’s everyday life. Many poems deal with topics found in all sorts of Instagram content, such as body image, sexuality and gender. 

“What we’re seeing is contemporary life reflected and that is the big appeal. People have for too long had this idea that poetry is a small world, and that poetry is one thing. This is an unnecessary narrowing,” says Palmer. 

And, like it or not, Instagram poetry has introduced young people to a genre that, in the recent years, hasn’t had much of a hold on them. 

The poetry of Instagram may not be to the critics’ likings, or the likings of some adult readers, but that shouldn’t make us write it off as meaningless, trivial diary scribbles.

“Poetry will no longer be something remote or intimidating, but an art form that these young readers feel they can claim as their own.”

“You could argue that some of the poetry is trite, clichéd, bland or derivative. But we’re coming to it as more mature, more sophisticated readers,” says Spencer-Regan. “I can imagine being 14 and then finding these pages — they would speak to me in a whole other way, giving voice to feelings and experiences that I perhaps couldn’t have articulated for myself at that age.” 

Spencer-Regan sees Instagram poetry as a harnessing of the power of social media to get young people excited about verse. 

“We talk about Harry Potter as a ‘gateway’ book, and I suspect that these poems can work in the same way — to make young people curious about poe,” Spencer-Regan says. “Poetry will no longer be something remote or intimidating, but an art form that these young readers feel they can claim as their own.”

Whether you like or dislike the poetry in your feed, or you relate to the minimalist relatability of the Insta poets, their influence must be acknowledged. After all, if you have haters, you must be doing something right. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/instagram-poetry-democratise-genre/

10 Old Fashioned Dating Habits We Should Make Cool Again

1. Coming to the door to pick someone up.

I think we’ve all had it with the incredibly unromantic “here” text, and meeting up always seems to be more casual and platonic than the alternative. Of course, meeting someone from online or any circumstance like that would probably be the exception to this rule, but generally: the 30 seconds it takes to get out of a car or cab and knock on the door makes a huge difference.

2. Trying to dress really nicely for a date.

“Nicely” means different things for different people, so I think it’s just a matter of putting effort into how you put yourself together to go out with someone. It’s not about wearing suits and petticoats again, but just realizing that, whether or not we like to accept it, appearance does count for something, and we should do our best to make sure that our appearance says something about us, in whatever way we’d like it to.

3. Bringing flowers or other tokens of affection to the first date.

Now, many lucky ladies (and some men) I know get this regularly, and in fact, I have myself as well, but only ever with people I’d been dating for a while. I think there’s something to be said for bringing flowers to the door on your first date. It’s become uncool because it’s forward and it’s a gesture that confirms their interest, but we should definitely get past that idea and worry more about how we’re going to let someone know we really do care and appreciate that they want to spend time with us.

4. Going dancing that’s not grinding on a grimy club floor.

Whatever happened to this? Dancing for the sake of dancing, like fun, not essentially sex on a dance floor dancing. What’s a better way to literally shake off nerves than seeing them bust a really dorky move on a dance floor? And the art of slow dancing has generally been lost, though I’ve been one to do it in my living room with my slightly coerced significant other, and I’ll tell you he’s said on numerous occasions it ended up being one of the most romantic nights we had together.

5. Straightforwardly asking someone out and not calling it “hanging out.”

Or, as is very popular these days, “talking.” “Oh, we’re just… talking.” As in, seeing one another and speaking frequently as to get to know each other? So… dating? We’ve found these really convenient ways to skirt around the issue of having to put our hearts on the line, but honestly, it just ends up being messy and confusing for all parties involved. There’s no need to go back to the idea of courting or anything, unless you want to, but simply being direct about whether or not you’d like to go on a date with someone is a truly lost art, one that really shouldn’t be.

6. Additionally, being clear about when you’re “going steady.”

Oh, the awkward, “so… are we… you know… what are we?” talk. Classic. We should go back to asking one another if the other person would like to “go steady” or something. There’s something about asking them if they’d like to rather than assuming that you are or aren’t anything that’s just very cute, in my opinion.

7. Romantic gestures like writing poems.

Writing poems may not be for you, I know mine would look something like “Roses are red, violets are blue, I hate poetry but I love you.” I literally just made that up thank you please quote me when you inevitably post that gem on Tumblr. But seriously, like a handwritten letter in the mail or just surprising them with something you made even if it looks like the macaroni necklace you made when you were 5 is cute just because you tried and were thinking of them.

8. Turning electronics off and just being with one another.

I’m not sure there is anything worse than the person who picks up their phone and starts staring at it in the middle of dinner, or at any point while you’re together and having a conversation. I’m not anti-technology here (hello, I work for the Internet) but I am saying that there comes a time to turn it off and disconnect and remember what actually matters. People.

9. The general concept of asking permission for things.

It used to be principle for people to say: oh, when can I see you? Or, when could I call you? Rather than just assuming they can at any point. But I think that old concept could be applied to our modern world by just assuming that, unless told otherwise, you should ask permission to you know, touch them , take them out, call them at a certain time, etc. Once you’re in a relationship these things usually don’t require asking anymore, but some do, especially when it comes to sexuality. I once knew a person who said that they asked permission before so much as touching a girl’s thigh, and that always stuck with me.

10. Not assuming sex is to be had at point in time.

Now, I’m certainly not saying it should go back to being a taboo that’s unspoken of, but we certainly shouldn’t expect it from someone on the third date, on the first date, because they’re being flirty, because you know they’re into you, or even because they agreed to go out with you. A date does not have to be a precursor to sex, and you shouldn’t be disappointed if it isn’t because you should never assume that it will be. It depends on the person you’re with and what they want to do.

Read more: http://thoughtcatalog.com/kate-bailey/2013/12/10-old-fashioned-dating-habits-we-should-make-cool-again/

Paradise Lost ‘translated more often in last 30 years than previous 300’

Global study finds Miltons verse epic rendered in languages from Tamil to Tongan, and argues interest is linked to social turmoil and political revolutions

Three hundred and fifty years after it was first published, John Miltons epic revolutionary poem about the fall of man, Paradise Lost, continues to find relevance around the world, with research revealing that new translations in the last 30 years outnumber the previous three centuries output combined.

More than 50 academics around the world collaborated to research a new book, Milton in Translation, discovering that the works of the 17th-century author have been translated more than 300 times and into 57 different languages. These range from Faroese and Manx to Tamil and Tongan, from Persian and Hebrew to Frisian and Welsh.

The scholars, led by Purdue Universitys Professor Angelica Duran, Birmingham City Universitys Dr Islam Issa, and Grand Canyon Universitys Dr Jonathan Olson, found that translations of Paradise Lost often mirror[ed] periods of rebellious ideology or nationalism. In Soviet Estonia, the translation was an act of national resistance against the USSR, they said, while in the Middle East, translations took place during the Arab spring uprisings. Yugoslavian political prisoner Milovan Djilas translated Paradise Lost into Serbo-Croatian in the 1960s while he was imprisoned, writing the epic out on toilet paper with a pencil, and smuggling it out of prison.

We were surprised by the number of languages [Milton] is translated into, said Issa. We expected lots of translations of Paradise Lost, but we didnt expect so many different languages, and so many which arent spoken by millions of people, such as Manx. You assume Spanish or French, but you dont assume Welsh and Manx.

Paradise Lost is, according to Issa, a very universal story Adam and Eve, the fall its timeless. And with Milton specifically, there is the revolutionary nature of his writing. He was a republican who played a part in the execution of Charles I, he was anti-Catholic, and theres his characterisation of Satan, trying to revolt against God the father. As a result, at times of political and religious struggle, such as countries trying to move away from Soviet rule, or the Middle East during the Arab spring, people are translating these revolutionary ideas.

First published in 1667, the blank verse Paradise Lost tells of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit / Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste / Brought Death into the World, and all our woe, / With loss of Eden. Miltons Satan is cast out from heaven with his rebel angels, Hurld headlong flaming from th Ethereal Skie / With hideous ruine and combustion down / To bottomless perdition, there to dwell / In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire. He goes on to tempt Adam and Eve, and to bring about their expulsion from Eden.

Milton in Translation, which is published on Thursday by Oxford University Press, is, say the scholars, the first ever detailed research into how Milton has been translated and read across the globe. Issa said: This book shows the real reach of literature, even if its from 350 years ago. It also confirms that Miltons works, particularly Paradise Lost, have themes that are both universal and adaptable to different contexts.

He added: For me, the most fascinating thing was seeing how all around the world, religion and politics have been so closely linked with what people choose to translate and how they go about it. There were many common trends. So readers going through independence took real interest in Miltons revolutionary ideas. Or, interestingly, translators in Egypt, Estonia and Spain from completely different times self-censored the exact same sexual scenes.

Issa said: I think he should be more widely read. Paradise Lost is possibly the most important poem in the language. It affects so much of what comes after it. He is the first poet to not use rhyme, to not be confined by anything, and you can see the influence of that today. I think we are missing out if we are not realising his position.

The list demonstrates that around the world people are taking real interest in Milton … And here in the UK we are not doing that so much, even when his writing speaks to us today.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/20/paradise-lost-translated-more-often-in-last-30-years-than-previous-300