December 14, 2018

Instagram is Making Poetry Relevant (and Controversial) Again

“Atticus is that rarest of things ― a celebrity poet. He’s also anonymous. He writes under a pen name and wears a mask in photos and for public appearances. To be clear, the mopped-top man from the November photo is not Atticus. Rather, he’s a coy decoy meant to titillate those giddy fans, clueless as they are to the poet’s true identity.

Atticus’ rise in the poetry world has been meteoric, unhindered by the concealment of his real name. He first posted on Instagram in 2013 and now has nearly 900,000 followers, the number still steadily growing. In late 2015 or early 2016, he published his first chapbook. In 2017, Atria Books, an imprint of big five publisher Simon & Schuster, published his collection Love Her Wild. Karlie Kloss, Shay Mitchell and Kaitlyn Bristowe are all thanked in it, and with good reason. Atticus poems frequently pop up on the Instagram feeds of celebs like Kloss and her crew, not to mention those of Bachelor alums like Bristowe. In September, Atria published an essentially identical follow-up collection, The Dark Between Stars.

Atticus’ work and persona ― like the work and personas of other popular Instagram poets ― are perfectly calibrated to attract fans: bland, generic, aesthetically pleasing, and therefore the perfect projection screen for readers’ desires. He specializes in the sort of broadly phrased epigrams about love and heartbreak that people eagerly like and share online, often printed over white backgrounds or saturated photos of long-maned, long-legged girls. One of his most beloved, oft-quoted poems romantically urges the reader to “Love her, but leave her wild”; women caption Instagram selfies with Atticus lines like “Just enough madness to make her interesting” and “She wore a smile like a loaded gun.” He’s prone to maudlin images that wouldn’t be out of place in a country song, like women with “whiskey-sipping / skinny-dipping” smiles. The poetry might be bad, but it is too inoffensive and nonspecific to alienate. Anyone can see themselves in Atticus’ poetry, and what they’ll see is a slightly heightened version of themselves, enigmatic and alluring.”

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