Ever since the viral poetry success Rupi Kaur released her first book in 2015, a new wave of poetry has made itself known to the world. “Insta-Poetry” consists of a few short stanzas, broken sentences and odd literary devices. The poems paint small fragmented moments in a poet’s life rather than telling a full story. Due to their tweet-like brief nature, a few choice “Insta-Poets” have become online sensations. Leaving lines of poetry scattered amongst the feeds of millions of people.
But what happens when the social media-specific poetry transfers mediums to a book or traditional poetry reading?
I went and found out.
Infamous “Insta-Poet” Atticus, has nearly 1 million followers (including supermodel Karlie Kloss) and holds the title of the “World’s Most Tattoo-able Poet”. He is best known for his epigrams often that are short and, in his own words, “vulnerable”. He’s since published two books: Love her Wild and more recently The Dark Between the Stars. All tied into his unmistakable black and white aesthetic, Atticus has built a serious career for himself. Not to mention the fact that he’s stayed completely anonymous while rising to internet fame.
Currently finishing his North American Tour, Atticus chooses to keep his identity a mystery. Instead of showing his face, he opts for a silver reflective mask. In doing so, he hopes to continue to make art that is true to himself that can still be applied to the lives of his readers. He’s not interested in the fame that comes with his social media presence.
As Atticus entered the stage on Thursday night, it was no doubt that his following had big expectations. Merchandise was being sold, and free temporary tattoos were applied. At least 50 fans (primarily young women) were huddled around the area of the bookstore in excitement.
The evening consisted of Atticus reading a few choice poems, telling personal stories and answering a number of audience questions. The questions varied- some fans focused on his muses and dug for details of his love life. Others asked about his inspirations, to which he cited the works of F Scott Fitzgerald and Sylvia Plath. Like a true artist, Atticus discussed his “writing shed”. It happens to be located on the back of his property and is filled with inspirational knick knacks including in-scents and a typewriter. He also harped on the fact that he works hard to be a vulnerable male writer, which is partially why he chooses to wear his mask. He sees his sensitivity and emotional awareness as an asset, something not necessarily well regarded in a society whose definition of masculinity inherently entails toxicity. This man himself was a bit of a spectacle, despite the fact that he works so hard to avoid that kind of attention.
But perhaps the most interesting moments of the night, were when Atticus read his poetry. The two stanza poems that had felt so touching online, felt obscure in person, as if something was missing, or not quite right. It was beyond bizarre to hear them aloud. This seemed pretty unusual considering how empowering lots of poetry can feel when read by its author. Words that had felt so meaningful on a screen, were no longer so beautiful and artistic in person. In fact, the words felt less like poetry and more like small quotations of something larger that simply was not there. That being said, it made me feel that perhaps “Instagram Poetry” should be classified as its very own genre.
Atticus prides himself on his anonymity and artistry, yet the focus of the in-person reading always returned to the man behind the mask and not his words. Yet, his following online does the opposite, comments flood his posts with inspired readers. This phenomenon serves as an abnormal reversal of how we typically see artists use their social media. Traditionally pop stars self-advertise their personal lives online and share their music in person. But perhaps, Atticus is a prime example of the shift into the age of social media influencers, through more than promoting products and doing online challenges. His art is best done virtually.
Considering it all, it then begs the question, whether or not Instagram Poetry ever should be read aloud. Is it simply a sub-genre that should stay where it belongs? Or are we as a society not yet accustomed to the mixture of social-media culture and artistic expression.
Featured Image via The Globe and Mail