July 18, 2019

In Defense of Instagram Poetry

“When he was 31 years old, Robert Macias was working as an art director for the TV and digital media company Univision in its “content creation facility” in Miami. Macias, the son of Colombian parents and a graduate who majored in digital communication and media, oversaw projects in marketing and adver-tising. He worked with brands including McDonalds and Kellogg’s, creating “visually compelling and engaging interactive experiences for the web”.

Now, you’re more likely to know Macias as r.m. drake, the New York Times-bestselling poet with 1.9 million followers on Instagram. He has published 14 collections of poetry, has a number of celebrity followers, and his poems have been repeatedly shared by the Kardashians. While working at Univision, Macias wrote in his spare time. In 2012, he started sharing his work on Instagram – taking short excerpts, typing them on to handmade paper with his 1940s Royal typewriter in lower case, and signing off with “r.m. drake”. He would photograph the page and post the result, such as: “the best kind/of humans are/the ones who/stay”. By the end of 2014, he had over half a million followers and quit his job to write full time.

Macias is not alone. Often described as “Instapoets”, there are several writers sharing short fragments online to enormous followings. The biggest of these audiences belongs to 26-year-old Rupi Kaur: the author of two poetry collections, she has 3.5 million Instagram followers and has received by far the most media attention of any Instapoet. On her Instagram account, she alternates beautiful pictures of herself in elegant outfits with short poems written entirely in lower-case; many young, attractive poets have followed this winning template. Her most popular poetry post reads simply “fall/in love/with your solitude”, accompanied by one of her simplistic line drawings. Others include “you’ve touched me/without even/touching me” and “she was music/but he had his ears cut off”.”

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