Poetry. The word itself was enough to incite a chorus of moans and groans in many high school or college standard literature classes. Stumbling through Dickinson, Eliot, or Tennyson was bewildering enough to cause most students to swear off the genre as a plague on personal sanity. As of a few years ago, this attitude was reflected in statistics for regular poetry readers, which was around 8.2 percent for young adults in 2012. Today, that number has more than doubled to 17.5 percent in the same population.
With the rise of Instagram poets like Rupi Kaur and R. M. Drake, we are beginning to see a shift in the world of poetry to a style and medium that is more effectively reaching an increasingly larger audience than almost any other genre today. The brevity and quick sharing options offered by social media platforms give readers access to poetic works that strike at the center of everyday struggles like heartbreak, self-growth, and personal acceptance on sites already touting content aimed at self-improvement. Most of these social media poets have little to no formal training and use highly personalized styles, which are seen as much more approachable and understandable to current audiences, making them more relatable and relevant.
While classically trained poets are concerned over consumer-driven content and diminished quality due to such developments in the poetic world, there must be evolution for the genre to adapt to our current cultural environment. This renewal of the poetic movement has indeed caused quite a stir. 1.3 million volumes of poetry were sold in the UK alone last year, an overall increase in sales of approximately 12% in the area. Social media poets have contributed to these statistics as well, also finding success through formally compiling and publishing their works out to a large and readily available fan base.
As social media, and online tools in general, continues to shape the publishing world and all of the genres that fall under it, we are seeing the ongoing importance of being able to make art, of any kind, approachable and available to audiences. No longer are readers interested in ideas of a stuffy and reclusive poet, hidden away scribbling out their meditations on the essence of life. Instead, a new type of poet is emerging. One who understands the everyday trials of life and not only relates to but interacts directly with their readers in an increasingly varied and democratic virtual literary community.
In a turbulent world filled with a vast multitude of uncertainties, poetry continues to be the balm of choice as audiences try to understand the confusing times we live in. Finding hope in the words and meters of others is not a new practice, despite the updated delivery system. While the dialogue surrounding social media’s poetry movement will doubtlessly continue, there is comfort in knowing that this treasured art form will continue to thrive regardless of our technological advancements and endless supply of pastimes.