Short, snappy poetry posts have become increasingly popular on Instagram, as they fit perfectly into a square frame and generally require less than .08 seconds of rumination from the reader.
On one hand, this can be construed as the utter demise of poetry, or even “good” literature if you’re talking to a dramatist. On the other hand, it’s pretty f*ckn good sometimes. But what makes it feel that way? One of the most attractive things about these bite-sized bits of pop-poetry is that it makes people feel understood. It’s the same reason you can memorize the words to any pop song after hearing it once, and why you can’t turn away when the Kardashians are on TV. You can hate on pop culture all you want, but you can’t escape the fact that it only exists satisfies a thing that society craves.
Pop-poetry fills a massive emotional gap in social media that many users are experiencing. The last ten years of the social media explosion have been about looking cool and gaining followers. Pop-poetry is suddenly more human. It’s more about the shared fears, flaws, and pains we all experience because we are, unfortunately, human. Even the plain typeface and background of these posts break up the usually thick feed of color-corrected media madness we see every day.
Aside from pop-poetry’s existence on-screen, let’s not forget what it can do in the real world. It can bring people into bookstores. Or even just the books section on Amazon. There, they can find recommendations for other poets, exploring the isles (or links) to unfamiliar voices both old and new. Consider pop-poetry the gateway drug into literature. Reading, as a form of entertainment, has been alarmingly unstylish since screens stepped in. Pop-poetry draws people in who might not usually choose reading as a pastime.
And to the people who believe pop-poetry is the demise of the art of poetry: chill out. Your ivory tower isn’t going anywhere. The classics are still exactly what they are, and right where you left them. If anything, take this as an opportunity to introduce new poetry readers to the world of long poems, and ideas established by long-gone poets that influence what’s coming out now. You don’t want to be the curmudgeon who disparaged Shakespeare, do you? It’s okay to make room for new art, and have an open mind.