Trying new things to make poetry accessible, poets famous
I’ve been blogging seriously for at least six or seven years now, though not always on the same platform. This past spring, for the first time ever, I shared two pieces of creative writing on my personal blog.
What took me so long?
I’m “old school” in the sense that I considered blogging separate from my attempts to craft experience and emotion in verse. One was informal; the other was formal. Somewhere along the way, an overlap started. And spread. My best blog posts are now more like crafted essays. My poems, while edited and edit some more, don’t try so hard, are more raw, less tidy. Could be, because blogging is nonfiction and poetry allows me to wear a mask (if I so choose), that I’ve grown to be more prudent about the factual information I share and more artful about, well, the art I make out of those facts.
Or I could be, consciously or not, ascribing to more modern practices of making art accessible via technology.
The New York Times recently featured a story on this very topic. It’s not new. Poetry and literary communities online are well-established. But more and more individual poets are seeing success through sharing their work online and building their own readership, without the aid of publishers, public relations, agents, or really anyone but themselves. The DIY ethic is paying off.
The NYT article tells us that “The percentage of Americans who said they read poetry fell to 6.7 percent in 2012, from 12 percent in 2002, according to a report by the National Endowment for the Arts. The story continues:
But the death spiral may be slowing. A YouTube channel for spoken-word poetry, Button Poetry, has nearly 430,000 subscribers, and the Academy of American Poets reaches more than 350,000 readers with its digital “Poem-a-Day” series.
Some established poets say the appetite for poetry on social media has benefited the entire field, not just newcomers, and has opened up avenues for writers who most likely would have struggled to find a publisher.
Poets—especially marginalized poets, non-academic poets, beginning poets, young poets—aren’t all knocking on the traditional doors to try to get noticed anymore. They’re taking matters into their own hands via free tools like Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter, where they’re in control. And for poets like Tyler Knott Gregson, Rupi Kaur, Lang Leav, and Robert Macias (all named in the NYT story), it’s clearly been the way to go, as they’re enjoying book deals, tens of thousands (millions, for some) of followers (translation: readers), and even merchandising options like calendars and postcards featuring their verse.
I see all this as evidence of poetry’s persistence, resilience, adaptability and necessity in our society. Poets are finding a way to make their art vital again. To make a living from it, and to reach more readers.
If Instagramming poems means more people will have access to poetry, I’m not only all for it–I might have to try it myself.
What do you think?