Dr. Anton Vander Zee
26 October 2022
Poetry for All
Lili Pâquet’s article “Selfie-Help: The Multimodal Appeal of Instagram poetry” argues for Instagram’s poetry place within academia citing instagram poetry’s use of ekphrasis and rhetorical importance due to audience reception.
Pâquet first argues for Instagram poetry’s ekphrastic nature stating that Instagram poetry is ekphrastic due to its use of hashtags and the narrative of the poet that is created/projected onto the poetry through branding. When someone hashtags a photo, whether the photo contains text or not, the person allows the readers to understand the meaning behind the photo or poem and “begin conversations, as well as to categorize them by meaning, idea, or type” (Pâquet 300). This ekphrasis use of hashtag helps people create brands through curated pages of “text, image, and emotion” (Pâquet 300). People can also brand themselves through the narrative created by the posts on their page and how they relate to each other, not just as individual posts, but as a whole– this allows followers to “read” different narratives of the Instagram poet and is ekphrastic in it’s own nature (Pâquet 300). Pâquet also notes that Instagram poets also feature collaborations with illustrators and photographers as part of the ekphrastic practice (299).
Pâquet goes on to describe that due to the accessibility of promotion, poets are now able to reach a wider or even more targeted audience. Instagram poets can now bypass traditional gatekeepers such as publishers and literary journals in order to promote their poetry, instead these gatekeepers must look to the internet to find what is popular (301). Instagram poetry gives voices to those whose voices are often stifled. What is popular in terms of Instagram poetry and how the general population currently receives poetry is a poet who is authentic, relatable, unedited/unfiltered by someone in the background, with writings that are “digestible” or accessible (302).
She then discusses and argues against academia’s snobbery towards Instagram poetry quoting Michael Squire, “the idea/image/scene being described in the ekphrastic epigram is not as important as the effect of the ekphrasis on the audience” (Pâquet 304). Pâquet argues that the separation from academia may even be what makes Instagram poets so popular as their poems are more “immediate, genuine, and authentic” while avoiding “lofty language” (309). These poets who seem more authentic become more trustworthy to the audience (Pâquet 309). A lot of academic poets sneer their noses at the lack of punctuation, “amateur” spacing, overuse of tired metaphors, etc., but Pâquet argues “elitism of this kind…excludes intriguing ideas about the poetry that is being sold to millions of readers in a time when poetry is supposed to be perishing” (310-311).
I personally really enjoy this article because I do not consider myself an instagram poet in the same sense of Rupi Kaur but I do collage my poetry and post it on instagram. I really believe multi-media art is the next step for poetry. Most contemporary journals I see that are successful allow collaged poetry, to pair a poem with a piece of art you made or collab-ed with someone else, or other forms of multi-media art. A lot of this is the ease of online literary journals, where people could have done this in print journals it probably would have taken hours formatting.
I also feel Instagram creates a community for poets without access to one. When you’re not a student or a professor or working at a journal or living in a larger city then you really feel on the ousts– how do I get in? Well it’s difficult, it’s elite. The point of writing is to get your work saturated and basically immortalized. Instagram provides easy solutions to these problems. Instagram provides ways for people to read your poetry daily but also ways for you to promote your self-made chapbook. It provides people to workshop your poetry, prompts that are posted daily, and a large variety of poets and therefore poems.
I feel some folks in academia here have turned their noses up to me for “stooping” to catering to this audience but I feel like making accessible poetry that speaks about morality, art, creates literary/historical allusions, etc. is important. And poets want to be read so accessibility is key (at least for me, to each their own)! Take Shakespeare for example, his plots are simple and accessible but he weaves his work with other things like word play, allegory, symbolism so that those who could not completely understand those nuances could still enjoy the plot but those searching for more could also enjoy the play.
I also really adored this article because one of my least favorite questions is “does this poem have value?” To me it seems each school of poetry is just a rejection of the other because the poets felt suffocated (i.e. the language poetry coming after formalism or confessional poetry after the New York School) and to me it just seems silly and cyclical. I feel like anyone can write anything of any form and if people, yourself included, are reading it then it has value. I think Gen Z understand this idea very well because promotion of diversity & positivity and ideas of hope with leading examples from the 1950s and 1970s have been instilled into us. I hope one day that narrative poetry as well as experimental poetry can be appreciated hand in hand. There are different writers for different people and that only makes sense not to pigeon hole people into one type of poetry.
This was also a great article as I am gearing up to the final project which will likely focus on ekphrasis poetry. So I loved reading a modern take on it, I actually found a few more specifically about Instagram poetry which were very cool.
At the bottom I attached Rupi Kaur’s Instagram poetry and here is a link to my Instagram poetry where I’m curating a new, lighter aesthetic (my photos were not compatible with wordpress for some reason)?
Pâquet, Lili. “Selfie-Help: The Multimodal Appeal of Instagram Poetry.” MLA International Bibliography,
2018, https://web.p.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=30b85344-d6b2-462b-99a0-4295498a9f21%40redis&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLHNzbyZzaXRlPWVob3N0LWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=2019392847&db=mzh. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.