I have noticed a trend in recent months for articles that are negative about the advent of what has been termed the #Instapoet – that is someone who uses Instagram as vehicle for sharing poetry. I find this odd because being fan of both poetry and Instagram I see only good in the combination of the two and enjoy playing in the space myself. I find that most articles fail to acknowledge the extraordinary range of work being created and shared via Instagram or that it is frequently a place for innovative work to be tested and community to be built. As I am about to embark on a 4 day residency as part of my own Instagram project at the StAnza Poetry Festival in Scotland as HashtagPoet# in residence I feel duty bound to put the other side of the argument:
Here are ten #Instapoets who I think showcase that the collision of poetry and the smartphone is nothing but a good thing :
<note: each name below is a link that will open the relevant Instagram page in a new browser tab.>
Austin Kleon is the most influential poet of the 21st Century. His Blackout Poetry project & book and his selfless drive to share his method and encourage others to share their work has lead to a small poetry revolution. Instagram is awash with poets using the Blackout method and sharing their work. I came across someone using Austin’s Blackout technique in poetry workshops here in the UK who had no idea where the wave that had handed them the concept had started. Austin also kickstarted a renewed interest in the work of Tom Phillips and there is a whole sub-Phillips genre on Instagram as people share their own works in progress.
Alice Simone uses a fusion of the methods of Austin Kleon and Tom Phillips to create poems via the redaction of pages from Jane Austin novels. I have never been a fan of JA so Alice is onto a winner as far as I am concerned and the pages in question are much improved as a result of Alice’s intervention.
London montagist Matthew Kay’s Diagram Poems are a great example of a text-artist-poet using the visual medium of Instagram. Data charts meet Dada. Cut outs and cut ups and pie charts. A personal favourite.
I was introduced to Adrian’s work by this Sabotage Reviews review of his Instagram series selfieswiththemoon. Typewriter rendered micro poems, messed with, photographed and filtered and uploaded to Instagram. This is what the 21st Century was invented for.
A star of the Nuyorican Poets Café, this is New York Spoken Word, posted big, bold, out spoken and political. I particularly like the typography of pieces like this… and this… you get the point. Also check out this film on YouTube.
Inua needs no introduction to anyone reading this I am sure. This is a great example of an established artist experimenting with a new medium (a bit like David Hockney with his Polaroid camera in the 70s). Inua has been posting a series of micro poems titled #Daily Definition(s) / #Tiny Poems which all start “We are small worlds made cunningly of…”. They are so good my stomach muscles knot as I read them.
Kayleigh describes herself as a Blackout Poet. Collager. Photographer. All good in my book. Another example of a writer / artist playing with the pictorial textual collide. I like Kayleigh best when she is stretching herself and her humour is black. Pieces like this montage with its nod to Matthew Kay and this one.
OK. Megan doesn’t actually post all that much poetry to Instagram. But she is a poet. She is on Instagram. She is on tour with Olivia Gatwood with their show SPEAK LIKE A GIRL. She is poetry’s Lena Dunham and America’s Megan Beech and she gets on this list just for: This. Poem. See what I mean. Yep.
If Bukowski was Latino, here right now with an iPhone and an Instagram account he might just be called Ottis Blades. If the machismo bothers you – get past it and concentrate on the longer pieces. The kid can write. And what about THIS Mr-would-be-President-Trump? I think we know where Ottis thinks your should stick your damn wall.
But but but… I hear the poetry police splutter. All right Gabrielle is more #insta-curator than #insta-poet but this is my post so we play by my rules. Of most interest to me in this context is the collection of found and stolen words she posts from time to time. I am unclear whether she adds some of the graffiti herself or not but as I have made a montage poem or two from words found at the side of the road myself, this resonates for me and so she gets place number ten.
HashtagPoetry# – The hidden poetry of Twitter, cut-up, painted and posted to Instagram will be published by Burning Eye Books in April 2016.