The Revolution is Instagram Poetry

Pinky and I have started a brand new Instagram poetry venture, New Tokyo City. You can check out the account here. I am a creative writer based in Tokyo. Pinky is a creative director in Brooklyn.

Post via New Tokyo City Instagram

For some reason, we interviewed each other over email to launch the Instagram account and sort out our feelings on the state of words and how they jive with the visually dominated landscape of the web in 2017.

What is New Tokyo City?

Oyl: New Tokyo City is a thesis that words still matter in this hyperactive, mobile-first, visually dominated digital world. We have seen the steady rise of visual platforms, in which the content has only grown more bite-sized. First their was Vine, and now little GIFs and loops are everywhere. New Tokyo City is an attempt for writing, a kind of nerdy, literature loving writing to get on the scoreboard. Maybe we’ll end up with a negative follower count, but this is something we have to try.

Pinky: A transcontinental collaborative experiment using visuals and verse to explore two of the most iconic and eclectic cities on the planet, Tokyo and New York.

Post via New Tokyo City Instagram

What is Instagram poetry?

O: It’s a little pocket of Instagram that the writing community has carved out. We only recently happened upon it and were really inspired by the great poets we found on there. They spoke a common language and we felt like one of their people. We see the community as collection of digital beatniks. People who have something to say and who bleed into their mobile typewriters to make their voice heard.

P: Instagram is a visual language and poetry paints pictures. The two are a match made in heaven — both forever and instantly available.

Why did you start this project?

O: Pinky and I are both creatives by day and live with the reality of 90% of our work ending up in the bottom of an industrial strength shredder. Personally, it’s great to have a lightening quick outlet where you can sit down, crank out 4 flash poems and post them in under an hour. It’s real creativity at play. It’s grabbing the open mic in the coffee house. It’s immediate and soul feeding for a creative person.

P: Personally, I feel a great burden in what I observe, as if I need to tell these stories and relay these connections. It’s usually in my head, but NTC is like tapping the release button in the old Reebok Pumps — a little pressure eased.

What do you hope to achieve with New Tokyo City?

O: We are looking to connect with like-minded people. Not just in Tokyo and New York, but we want to find as many people as possible who believe in the power and vitality of poetry and words in 2017. We hope to build New Tokyo City into a shining beacon that stands for personal voice. We hope we can inspire more people to share their voice. We also hope to bring some attention to the power of words on the web. We want to find new ways of getting words out there that don’t just get scrolled past.

P: I’m looking for a dialogue on observation, on the way we move about our lives, in and out of each other’s spheres. Finding commonality in these connections makes finding connections in humanity much easier.

Pinky, how would you describe the creative atmosphere of New York?

P: New York is a canvas. Blank. Ready. And behind it, the music is blaring. The paint is flowing. All you have to do is tap into it, get pushed around a little bit. Push back a lot. It’s intimidating at first, but electric once you let it hit you.

And Oyl, how would you describe creativity in Tokyo in 2017?

O: There is a creative revolution happening in Tokyo that lives in the margins. The mainstream is trying to appropriate and buy out the start up minded creativity, but they will only dilute it. Creativity is most vibrant in the typical haunts like art hanging on cafe walls, or indie record shops who give a shit more than anybody, or micro-galleries that tap their friend networks. You’re starting to see cool mixes of technology and traditional Japanese forms. And there is definitely some major heat in Tokyo and Japan on Instagram. Creators, artists, models and magazines to watch are giving the platform major attention. Also, the Netflixes and Googles of the world are giving attention and investing in local creators. There is a kind of feeling that Tokyo has something to offer or show off to the world. What that is exactly has yet to be defined.

Post via New Tokyo City Instagram

What inspires you about New York?

P: There is an overwhelming sense of anonymity here — you have your thing and it can be huge and no one would know or care. Sounds counterintuitive to feel inspired by that, but think of the possibilities that complete freedom from judgement offers. It’s astounding really.

What inspires you about Tokyo?

O: Everything. The lights. The people. The architecture. While it is a major metropolis that has been well-established, I always get the feeling that everything could change overnight, and that’s exciting. You get the feeling that you are always just one little creative spark away from ‘making it.’ So now is the time to place your creative bets in Tokyo. Especially with the Olympics coming in 2020. All eyes are on this stage.

What is your writing routine in New York?

P: I write a lot on the subway. The commute is an endless supply of intricacies, studies of the human condition. My iPhone is my routine — if I think it, it goes in a note. It may never turn into anything, but it’s always ready, just in case.

What is your writing routine in Tokyo?

O: I’m a cafe junkie. I’ve got my favorite hideouts picked out and they serve me well. If I don’t have a major project on, I like to get things started with free-writing. I try not to put limits on myself. I’m interested in a lot of forms. I’m very aware that a piece of writing could end up taking me down many different paths. It could end up as a poem or an essay or a short story. Once I find a voice in a shorter piece of writing, then I look at it through the lens of if it could become an engine that drives something bigger, like a play, TV show or film. I write with the intention to create more opportunities. And I see New Tokyo City playing into that mentality well by giving me an outlet to generate lots of short ideas and see what takes off.

I’ve noticed visuals play a central role in framing your writing.

How important are supporting visuals for you?

P: I love photography. It played a huge role early in my career as a creative outlet and way to experiment with my POV. Combining it with the verses that I write makes the whole project a complete thought, which as a creative is a very powerful opportunity.

O: I think very visually, so when I am writing, I see very specific symbols and scenes that support the ideas. I am very interested in the language of cinema. How a simple, iconic presentation of a visual can make you feel. To me there is nothing more exciting than the merging of words and visuals.

Are their any people you’d like to collaborate with for New Tokyo City?

O: I’m always open to collaborations with people who have a strong voice or storytelling point of view. I’d like to continue to find collaborators in Tokyo, and also through this project, connect with some creative masterminds in New York. I see this project as a bridge between two great creative communities. Specifically, I’m interested in working with filmmakers and designers to push these words further.

P: Collaboration will be step two. Other writers, visual artists, technologists, or anyone looking for a way to make stories epic are who I’m looking forward to connecting with — our world is collaborative in nature, and an idea like New Tokyo City certainly benefits from a variety of input.

Post via New Tokyo City Instagram

How would you describe your writing style?

P: Simple. I think there’s an inherent simplicity in the world that we’ve spent a long time layering over, so I like a clear, honest thought to be expressed when I write.

O: I don’t like to talk about that because it makes me feel limited. I like to keep open to exploring forms and styles. I just want to get better and experiment with how to express myself in this moment.

How would you describe the aesthetic of New Tokyo City?

O: It’s a work in progress. We’ve got a nice little head of steam right now, but we’re just getting started. Right now I see two routes in my head, that I don’t think are mutually exclusive. I think there is a mingling of high and low art that I want to lean into. Both cities have a cool grittiness to them. And both are also home to some incredibly, minimal and sophisticated art.

P: The look is the cities where these verses come from — its crushingly bold and weird, and dark, and a little whimsical. And evolving. We’re not a curated, market-driven response to a statistical insight. We just make. I’m curious and excited to see how we continue to change it up.

What are your future plans for expanding on New Tokyo City?

O: I can literally see this project going anywhere. The bigger and more ambitious the better. Eventually I want to offer guest post spots to creative folks in both cities. Beyond Instagram, I see natural bridges into print and film.

P: Print. It’s dead. But so what? Paper is part of that connective tissue we’re so hellbent on layering over — it’s a tree dammit! So when we feel it in our hands, it’s more than just possession. I also see a major opportunity in video creation. There’s a strong need for soul in the content that gets posted everywhere — not just an inspirational quote or goofy meme, but a thoughtful take on who we are and just what it is we’re supposed to be doing here.

Does New Tokyo City take submissions?

P: Right now we’re locking in on our own thing, but we love the love! As soon as we connect the dots on our platform, we’ll let everyone know about submissions.

O: It’s something we’re entertaining as a second step. We want to find our footing on the platform first. And then open the floodgates.

Who are your influences?

O: Here’s a starting five of people whose work I have overanalyzed and obsessed about: John Lennon, Jack Kerouac, Picasso, Tony Kaye, Steve Jobs.

P: I’m influenced mostly by the people around me — I listen and observe. How they talk. How they move. It drives my curiosity. Professionally, I take cues from film and tv greats, stand-up comedians, and Thom Yorke. Yeah, he’s the only name drop right now.

With the web having turned into such a visually driven platform, what do you see as the role for words?

O: I think people have grown desensitized to words and language. But I believe that when people are exposed to a great piece of writing (a monologue from a film, in a song lyric, in a great commercial even…) they can be stirred deeply. I think this is profound. Pure visuals are wonderful. But there is a specific art and magic that is conjured through words. Language is the cheat code to our hearts and emotions. It is mainly through the power of words that we learn, feel alive or are moved.

P: Words are the original visuals. They can’t be replaced. Only displaced. So we find ourselves desperate for more meaningful conversations and connections, and yet at every turn, we put up barriers for authenticity. Words can bring that back, placed in and around visuals, they can reconnect our innate need to be understood on a deeper level and provide context and clarity to what we consume visually.