With the dawn of the internet and the digital age, the consumption and publication of poetic literature has undergone an intense reimagining. Once, the only way to read a poem was to have a physical copy of it. Now, it is possible to access poetry immediately on the internet through any number of ways, and authors have new ways to be published other than in the traditional sense. One of the new methods of accessing poetry is on the social media application Instagram, where there is a niche community dedicated to posting poetry on their accounts. Some of these accounts are personal, and the owners will occasionally include poetry (by themselves or another author) as a picture or two in posts on their profiles along with regular personal content. However, there has been a recent popularization of accounts dedicated solely to posting poetry submitted by followers of the accounts. These accounts accept follower submissions through direct messages or an email form linked in the bio, and moderators of the accounts parse through submissions and select which poetry to post publicly. Through the use of these accounts, poets can be “published” in a semi-democratized manner that has the potential to surpass possible exposure provided in just about any other medium.
To Post or Not to Post
Instagram accounts as a means of publishing poems have less of the constrictions of traditional media publication, but this fact comes with an obvious caveat. Without any of the usual vetting process for publication— pitching, proof-reading, editing, etc.— there is less quality-control. On one hand, this can be a positive aspect. There is growing discourse surrounding the “stuffiness” of traditional publishing methods, and how some hire-ups of the industry can use rather outdated standards. Digital media is considered to be more cutting-edge, and as such is much less strict with vetting content. Poetry-sharing Instagram accounts like anon.poetry.submissions and poetryclub.cascade take submissions of all skill levels, advertising themselves as accepting poetry from anyone at all. However, it only takes a moment perusing these kinds of accounts to notice that quite a lot of the submissions are not, technically, “good.” Much of this poetry does not follow any kind of rhyme scheme or meter and employs mixed metaphors often. It is not all the same quality you would find in most published poetry books or even other digital poetry publications, as the owners of such accounts who pick and post the content are often just young adults with a passion for the genre but little expertise. This increased variety of quality is part of the tradeoff that comes with an informal publication process.
Credit Where Credit is Due
One issue that may come to mind when considering poetry submission Instagram accounts is the matter of proper credit. With traditionally published media, writers are credited and paid for their contributions, even in collaborative projects like journals and newspapers. With Instagram accounts, however, there is rarely any money to be made from accounts that share poetry, even by the owners of the accounts themselves. Therefore, it is a rare occurrence for followers who submit their work to be compensated in any way except the possibility of exposure. However, most accounts are diligent to credit the writers themselves, and almost always note the name and/or Instagram username of the followers submitting their poems. One notable exception is in the case of anonymous poetry-sharing accounts. These accounts, like anon.poetry.submissions, provide a space where people can submit poetry without being credited. However, this is intentional in order to let people express themselves and share their self-expression without the pressure of their names attached to the poetry.
Poetry Appreciation in the Digital Space
As previously noted, poetry Instagram accounts do not make much (or usually any) money through their operation. Why, then, do these accounts exist and continue to publish poetry without any compensation? The answer is that they are spaces created with the intent of appreciation for the genre. Contributors and owners of these accounts alike have the same goal of sharing poetry with the world, even without the incentive of financial gain. However, one critique of the medium is that such accounts do not take poetry seriously. As previously mentioned, there are lower standards for posting poetry on Instagram than in traditional publications, and some may see this as the moderators of the accounts not caring about the quality of the work. Poetry purists might note that a sense of poeticism is not enough to qualify as poetry; there is technical skill involved in working with meter, rhyme, rhythm, and themes. Additionally, social media has a way of co-opting art as a way to add to one’s “personal aesthetic,” and some may find the publication of poetry on social media to be inherently cheaper based entirely on the platform. However, negating the passion and appreciation of the genre that goes into regularly maintaining an Instagram account without compensation is not giving full credit to a new generation with a desire to keep the art form alive.
Instagram accounts that post follower-submitted poetry are, undoubtedly, part of the new age of digital publication. Social media in general has proved to be a shortcut to access audiences of sizes previously unheard of, and poetry-sharing accounts seek to utilize this resource to the advantage of amateur poets. However, like the internet as a whole, these accounts are almost wholly unregulated, and do not have the safeguards and limitations involved in traditional publishing. This kind of unregulated content may be much more accessible than traditional edited content, but has the drawbacks of more low-quality content. Overall, Instagram accounts that share submitted poetry are not hurting the poets involved and provide a safe space for beginning poets to share their work with little judgment.