Poetry doesn’t have to be the out of touch, stuffy, boring poems you read in school. The rise of so-called “Instagram Poetry” has made poetry reading and writing accessible in unprecedented ways — especially for young people and those from marginalized groups. The term Instagram Poetry gets thrown around a lot but what actually is it? Technically speaking, Instagram Poetry is just like any other poetry — it’s just that it has been shared out on social media. Often, Instagram Poetry is short so it can fit in a single post. It may be aesthetically laid out in the post with decorative fonts, and other times it may be accompanied by a photograph or small drawing.
Unfortunately some of the “old guard” of the poetry community more conservative poets (sometimes though not always) older poets have been dismissive of the idea of Instagram Poetry and poets/writers who share work creatively online. They argue that it somehow devalues the genre, but I believe this critique is rooted in agism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism. These writers tend to be deeply attached to an old and traditional publishing process that has historically shut out marginalized voices. Thankfully, most of the literary community is catching on to how important social media is for making poetry accessible. To me the most powerful aspect of Instagram Poetry, especially for LGBTQ+ writers, and young writers, is that it removes the gatekeepers. You don’t need the editor of a literary journal to say your poem is good or has value or is worth publishing — you get to make that determination yourself, put your art into the world and immediately begin connecting with other LGBTQ+ people who are expressing themselves creatively through poetry.
Finding an Online Poetry Community
Poetry can open up new ways of seeing or understanding the world around you, including your own identity or experience. Instagram is a great way to explore what kind of poetry you like, and what speaks to you. This isn’t the poetry of your high school English class — it’s accessible, diverse, and speaking to real moments, real people and the world around us. Instead of relying on a dinosaur paced publishing industry where books release years after they are written, Instagram Poetry allows for writers to share work instantly with the world, which especially in a year like 2020, feels especially important.
Many of us got scared away from poetry because of how we first encountered it generally in classrooms and our inability to relate to the themes or language being used. Especially for LGBTQ+ people who might not have seen ourselves reflected in school curriculums, poetry can feel like something belongs to someone else, but poetry isn’t supposed to be incomprehensible. Poetry is about creative expression of feelings and big ideas. Poetry is about the look of words on the page and how that can tell a story, or the way that words sound strung together. Poetry gives us the freedom to break the rules of writing to better express ourselves. There is an amazing and rich tradition of LGBTQ+ poets that is becoming increasingly recognized. You can check out this fantastic diverse roundup of LGBTQ poetry from Poets.org here
Like with most things on Instagram, one of the best ways to find other people with similar interests is to follow the hashtags. If you are looking to read more poetry, or connect with writers or other poetry lovers a great place to start is by looking up any favorite LGBTQ+ writers/authors/poets whose work you admire or enjoy reading/listening to. These creators are likely to post new work regularly. Another great way to expand your exposure to Instagram poets you might not be familiar with is to follow hashtags and see what is benign shared. Some popular poetry related hashtags to look at include:
#poetrylgbt #lgbtpoetry #queerpoet #queerpoetry #poetrycommunity #poetsofinstagram #poetry #poetrylovers #poetryofinstagram #poetsofinstagram # #instagrampoetry #instagrampoet #instagrampoets #instagrampoetrycommunity #poetryprompts
The more Instagram (and other) poetry you read, the more you might feel inspired to start creating your own! Poetry allows readers to connect in new and intimate ways with the the theme of the poem, and even allows the writer to see their own experience in new ways. With poetry the way that words are arranged, or how they sound next to each other forces the reader to slow down and pay attention not just to the words being used, but to the meaning behind them. Poetry encourages us to reconsider what we thought we knew about a situation or topic, and see something in a completely different way. I think for that for LGBTQ+ people in particular, this can be especially valuable and freeing. There are no rules, no binaries, no boxes that your poem has to fit into to be considered valid, good, worthy of being out in the world.
Feeling inspired? Forget everything your English teacher ever taught you about writing. Forget the rules, the conventions, the way that words and punctuation are “supposed” to be used and instead give yourself permission to write the way you feel. Write what comes naturally to you, what you are thinking and experiencing in this moment from the big picture of global politics and the pandemic to what is happening right in front of you in your own life or home. You have a unique experience and way of seeing the world that people are waiting to read!
About the Author:
Sassafras Lowrey’s novels and nonfiction books have been honored by organizations ranging from the American Library Association to the Lambda Literary Foundation and the Dog Writers Association of America. Sassafras’ work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired and numerous other newspapers and magazines. Sassafras has taught queer writing courses and workshops at LitReactor, the NYC Center For Fiction and at colleges, conferences, and LGBTQ youth centers across the country. www.SassafrasLowrey.com