Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 9, 2021

A Digital Revolution? Insiders, Outsiders, and the “Disruptive Potential” of Instapoetry

Alyson Miller
From the journal arcadia

Abstract

Whilst frequently dismissed as “cliché, banal, derivative, portentous, repetitive, and manipulative” (Hodgkinson), offering little other than “fidget-spinner” distractions to appease the masses (Roberts), Instapoetry is a slippery, intricate mode. The simplicity of its aesthetic belies its complex political manoeuvrings, marked by an imperative towards a progressive ideology that contests the sexism and racism of dominant culture. Indeed, despite its “byte-sized” accessibility (Bresge), Instapoetry is deceptive, evoking discourses of ‘outsiderness’ that locate the genre within an often-problematic logic of rebellion. Examining black feminist Instapoets such as Aja Monet, Yrsa Daley-Ward, and Nayyirah Waheed, as well as ‘superstars’ of the genre, including Rupi Kaur, Atticus, and Nikita Gill, this paper argues that there is a persistent disjuncture between the extra-textual commentary surrounding Instapoetry, particularly by way of interviews and artistic statements, and the content of works which repeatedly reinscribe conservative, patriarchal, and heteronormative worldviews. Whilst the pithy convenience of new media poetries has undoubtedly helped magnify oppressed voices and perspectives, it has also, more cynically, fostered an insistence on universality that erases complexity and difference in the (largely aesthetic) interests of harmony, and the appeasement of both dominant and minority cultures.

Works Cited

Ahsan, Sadaf. “On Rupi Kaur and the Question of Authenticity in the Age of Social Media Artists.” National Post, 12 Oct. 2017, nationalpost.com/entertainment/books/on-rupi-kaur-and-the-question-of-authenticity-in-the-age-of-social-media-artists. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Ailes, Katie. “‘Instapoetry’ in the LRB: Towards a Better Criticism of Popular Poetics.” 21 May 2019, katieailes.com/2020/05/21/instapoetry-in-the-lrb-towards-a-better-criticism-of-popular-poetics/. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Anderson, Monica, Skye Toor, Lee Rainie, and Aaron Smith. “Activism in the Social Media Age.” Pew Research Centre, 11 July 2018, pewresearch.org/internet/2018/07/11/activism-in-the-social-media-age/. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Atticus. Instagram, 2020, instagram.com/atticuspoetry/?hl=en. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Atticus. Love Her Wild. London: Headline, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Beard, Mary. Women and Power: A Manifesto. London: Profile Books, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Belcher, Sara. “Rupi Kaur has been accused of plagiarizing her poems from a Tumblr poet.” Distractify, 31 Dec. 2019, distractify.com/p/rupi-kaur-plagiarism. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Bresge, Adina. “Verse Goes Viral: Instagram Poets Shake-Up the Literary Establishment.” National Post, 6 June 2018, nationalpost.com/pmn/entertainment-pmn/books-entertainment-pmn/verse-goes-viral-instagram-poets-shake-up-the-literary-establishment. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Brown, Melissa, Rashawn Ray, Ed Summers, and Neil Fraistat. “#SayHerName: A Case Study of Intersectional Social Media Activism.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 40.11 (2017): 1831–46.10.1080/01419870.2017.1334934Search in Google Scholar

Bruns, Axel. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York. Peter Lang, 2008.Search in Google Scholar

Bucknell, Clare. “Instapoetry.” London Review of Books 42.10 (21 May 2020), lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n10/clare-bucknell/instapoetry. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Carlin, Shannon. “Meet Rupi Kaur, Queen of the ‘Instapoets’.” Rolling Stone, 21 Dec. 2017, rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/meet-rupi-kaur-queen-of-the-instapoets-129262/. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Crispin, Jessa. Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto. Carlton: Black Inc., 2017. Search in Google Scholar

Daley-Ward, Yrsa. bone. London: Penguin, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Daley-Ward, Yrsa. Instagram, 30 May 2020, instagram.com/yrsadaleyward/?hl=en. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Ezibota. “Interview with Nayyirah Waheed.” 29 Aug. 2013, ezibota.tumblr.com/post/59703372152/their-opinion-means-nothing-to-me-who-are-they-to?is_related_post=1. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Gee, Dana. “Who is Atticus? West Coast Canadian’s short poems long on inspiration.” Vancouver Sun, 19 July 2017, vancouversun.com/entertainment/local-arts/who-is-atticus-west-coast-canadians-short-poems-long-on-inspiration. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Gerbaudo, Paolo, and Emiliano Treré. “In Search of the ‘We’ of Social Media Activism: Introduction to the Special Issue on Social Media and Protest Identities.” Information, Communication & Society 18.8 (2015): 865–71.10.1080/1369118X.2015.1043319Search in Google Scholar

Ghanny, CJG. “Do ‘sad brown girls online’ write the same? Plagiarism charges against poet Rupi Kaur start a debate.” Scroll.in, 29 July 2017, scroll.in/magazine/845092/do-sad-brown-girls-online-write-the-same-plagiarism-charges-against-poet-rupi-kaur-start-a-debate. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Gharib, Malaka. “Beyoncé’s Lemonade Turns a Somali-Brit Poet into a Global Star.” NPR, 27 April 2016, npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/04/27/475872852/beyonces-lemonade-turns-a-somali-brit-poet-into-a-global-star. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Gill, Nikita. Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty. London: Trapeze, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Giovanni, Chiara. “The Problem with Rupi Kaur’s Poetry.” BuzzFeedNews, 4 Aug. 2017, buzzfeednews.com/article/chiaragiovanni/the-problem-with-rupi-kaurs-poetry. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Hodgkinson, Thomas. “‘Instapoetry’ may be popular, but most of it is terrible.” The Spectator, 23 Nov. 2019, spectator.co.uk/article/-instapoetry-may-be-popular-but-most-of-it-is-terrible. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetic of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1988.Search in Google Scholar

Kaur, Rupi. “FAQ.” rupikaur.com/faq/. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Kaur, Rupi. milk and honey. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014.Search in Google Scholar

Kassam, Ashifa. “Rupi Kaur: ‘There was no market for poetry about trauma, abuse and healing’.” The Guardian, 27 Aug. 2016, theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/26/rupi-kaur-poetry-canada-instagram-banned-photo. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Khosravinik, Majid, and Johann W. Unger. “Critical Discourse Studies and Social Media: Power, Resistance and Critique in Changing Media Ecologies.” Methods of Critical Discourse Studies. Eds. Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer. 3rd edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2016. 206–33.Search in Google Scholar

Kruger, Sasha. “The Technopo(e)litics of Rupi Kaur: (de)Colonial AestheTics and Spatial Narrations in the DigiFemme Age.” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology 11 (2017), adanewmedia.org/2017/05/issue11-kruger/. Accessed 2 Sept. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Marikar, Sheila Yasmin. “The Life of an Instagram Poet.” The New Yorker, 8 March 2017, newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-life-of-an-instagram-poet. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Matthews, Kristin L. “‘Woke’ and Reading: Social Media, Reception, and Contemporary Black Feminism.” Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies 16.1 (2019): 390–411.Search in Google Scholar

Mehri, Momtaza. “Letters from a Young (Female) Poet.” The Millions, 31 Jan. 2018, themillions.com/2018/01/letters-from-a-young-female-poet.html. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Monet, Aja. “Black Joy.” Instagram, 6 June 2020, instagram.com/ajamonet/?hl=en. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Monet, Aja. My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

Noel, Urayoán. “The Queer Migrant Poetics of #Latinx Instagram.” New Literary History 50.4 (2019): 531–57.10.1353/nlh.2019.0053Search in Google Scholar

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. New York: Seal Press, 2018.Search in Google Scholar

PBS. “How Poet Rupi Kaur Became a Hero to Millions of Young Women.” 2 Jan. 2018, pbs.org/newshour/show/poet-rupi-kaur-reaches-new-audiences-in-a-new-way. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Pitt, Helen. “Thought poetry was dead? The ‘Instapoets’ raking it in online would beg to differ.” Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend, 2 Nov. 2019, smh.com.au/culture/books/thought-poetry-was-dead-the-instapoets-raking-it-in-online-would-beg-to-differ-20191029-p53578.html. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Roberts, Soraya. “No Filter.” The Baffler, 24 Jan. 2018, thebaffler.com/latest/instapoetry-roberts. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Roy, Nilanjana. “Voices of the New ‘Instagram Poets’.” Financial Times, 24 Feb. 2018, ft.com/content/34433034-1651-11e8-9e9c-25c814761640. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Sage, Lorna. Moments of Truth: Twelve Twentieth-Century Women Writers. London: Fourth Estate, 2001.Search in Google Scholar

Sanderson, Caroline. “Nikita Gill: ‘There was so much anger inside me’.” The Bookseller, 31 Oct. 2017, thebookseller.com/profile/nikita-gill-there-was-so-much-anger-inside-me-640601. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Shire, Warsan. “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon.” 2015, verse.press/poem/what-they-did-yesterday-afternoon-6524900794187889060. Accessed 2 Sept. 2021.Search in Google Scholar

Sin, r. h. Instagram, 2018, instagram.com/r.h.sin/?hl=en. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021. Search in Google Scholar

Sin, r. h., and Samantha Holmes. We Hope This Reaches You in Time. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2020.Search in Google Scholar

Sobande, Francesca, Anne Fearfull, and Douglas Brownlie. “Resisting Media Marginalisation: Black Women’s Digital Content and Collectivity.” Consumption Markets & Culture (2019): 1–16.10.1080/10253866.2019.1571491Search in Google Scholar

Stein, Kevin. Poetry’s Afterlife: Verse in the Digital Age. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2010.Search in Google Scholar

Stephens, Judith L. “Subverting the Demon-Angel Dichotomy: Innovation and Feminist Intervention in Twentieth-Century Drama.” Text and Performance Quarterly 9.1 (1989): 53–64.10.1080/10462938909365912Search in Google Scholar

Waheed, Nayyirah. salt. CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013.Search in Google Scholar

Watts, Rebecca. “The Cult of the Noble Amateur.” PN Review 44.3 (2018): 13–7.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2021-11-09
Published in Print: 2021-11-30

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston