Atticus, Poindexter, Rupi Kaur, JmStorm…
To anyone who doesn’t live in the land of Instapoetry, these names won’t mean very much. However, for those in the know, these are just four poets who have made a reputation, and a living, off their work and loyal Instagram following.
The other thing that these poets have in common is that they specialise in micropoetry and flash fiction.
By it’s very nature Instagram is a platform that supports brevity. Swiping does not a lot of time take. In order to make a connection, a poem often needs to be able to be read almost instantaneously and this does not lend itself to a lengthy work.
Micropoetry and Flash Fiction are defined by their extreme brevity. A micropoem is simply a short poem. Flash fiction is an umbrella term used to describe the extremely short work. Beginning with the increasingly popular One-Word story, to the Six-Word Story, the 140-character story (Twitterature), to the dribble (50 words) and drabble (100 words), and up to the lengthy sudden fiction (750 words). Both of these forms are rampant on Instagram.
When we asked ourselves, does size matter, it was important to put it in context. In the world of Instagram poetry, if you are looking to grow a commercial account, size is everything. There are very few commercially successful accounts that offer anything beyond micropoetry or flash fiction. That seems to be part and parcel of the practice.
And we don’t hate it.
Micropoetry is not a new form, but it is only now growing in practice and acceptance. Flash fiction seems to have been around a little longer, but the ultra-short work, has only recently started gaining in popularity. We love that this form forces the poet to be selective about word choice, to think carefully about layering complexity and creating connection in a such minimalist form. We love that it forces the poet to make. Every. Single. Word. Count.
Where many traditional forms have been flailing, micropoetry has also resulted in a renaissance of the haiku, senryu, katauta, tanka and sedoka. The traditional rules of these forms lend themselves well to the confines of a short work and are now widely practiced, even if they are all hashtagged #haiku.
But we are worried about what this means for many of the other traditional forms. In the race for likes and followers how many poets will take on the challenge of an Epic, or even a sonnet when it is not on trend? In the future will poets still work to tell real stories that need to be read, absorbed and then read again?
Based on the work in the community, we know these forms are still alive and well. We know that people aren’t afraid to use the caption space (2200 characters if you are interested) and split poems into parts. We know that for many, it isn’t about money, or the double tap. We can only hope that this passion continues, so that we can all enjoy poetry in its many diverse and varied forms for years to come.
So our answer, dear Instapoet, does size matter? If you want to sell poetry on Instagram, then yes it does. But if you simply love to write, then it doesn’t matter and it never will.
Rayna Halloway ǀ @herheartshapedbox
Based in New Zealand, Rayna is an ever-optimist obsessed with all things poetry. She has aspirations of taking the spoken word world by storm, if only she could get over her stage fright!