What is the message of Instapoetry

My Pham

In the past couple of years, Instapoetry has been penetrated into our daily life and getting more attention. @Rupikaur @Langleave @atticuspoetry @tylerknott are some of the names most of youngsters know and read their works on Instagram, even buy their books. Despite its increasing impact and success in public, there are many critics from journalist and academic writers about the quality of those Instapoems.  Most of the arguments are that they are too personal, too trivialized and lack artistic quality, so that they cannot be seen as ‘real’ poetry. Although there are controversies, Instapoetry has proved its influences on entertaining millions of Instagram users and saves poetry from going extinction in the new media generation. Most importantly, thanks to Instapoetry, people from margins such as black women, immigrants, housewives have a stage to share their stories, products and earning money, which is the democratic function of Instapoetry.

Just like Marshall McLuhan mentioned: ‘The Medium is the Message.’, looking at the affordances of Instagram, Instapoetry brings about more messages than just only the content of the poems. In her paper, academic writer Kila van de Starre suggested four different layers of material code including the device, the app, the materiality of the poem itself and the carrier in order to judge and give meaning through the medium of Instapoetry.

Below is a poem from Tyler Knott Greyson or @tylerknott. The first layer of the material code of this poem is the smartphone. Instagram is a platform supporting mostly for smartphone users rather than PC users since the function of taking picture button is only visible on smartphone version. The picture and its white polaroid frame would appear full screen on the phone. That is the idea of remediation when the physical frame of polaroid picture is brought into the screen of a smartphone.

On the feed of Tyler Knott, we can see clearly three themes on three separate columns based on the posts he shares every day. The first on the left is about his Typewriter series, the middle one is his daily haiku poems and the last collumn is not about poetry but probably his personal life, stories or quotes in general. As we can see, all the posts on Tyler’s feed are managed professionally for merchandising and marketing. On Instagram, it is important to create a feed with impressive artistic effects if users want to use it for business reasons.  That way would help to attract followers and at least followers could have some expectations and know where they can find what they want to find. On his bio, 4 hashtags #Photographer #Poet #Buddhist #Traveller are four positions Tyler identifies himself. Also on his bio is information about his wife, email address, contact for business and links to his postcards on Spotify.

On the screenshot (that appears to reader), there is information of the poem, where it might be written, the caption for it. Under the picture is his retyped poems and the source of his poem is ‘Daily Haiku on Love. Also he used hashtags to show what he considered of his work. It is #realpoetry and in his series of haiku poetry about love. All the comments from readers are positive or encouragement. Under the name of poet, he tagged the place ‘Lake Lanier Islands, Lake Lanier Island Resort’, which indicates the place he wrote or took the picture, or where he is right now. The idea of immediacy is aroused here since the readers might have their own imagination about the context of the poems. That might be a place with sunny, lake views, resort and vacation.

The third layer of the material code also gives us interesting information about the poem itself. The poem has no title but from the caption and  hashtags followers would know that the poem is about love. The poem belongs to haiku poetry according to Tyler. Haiku is a classical type of poetry from Japan with a strict rule of words, rhythm and content of the poem itself. The distinction of this poetry type is short and concise message. All content of each haiku poem is carried in three lines with less than 20 words. Because of its short type, haiku poem is about the immediate feeling of poet at that moment. That is also the ideology of Instagram platform with instant stories and instant pictures being shared. All poems in Tyler’s daily haiku series are hand-written, although readers cannot make sure whether it is written by hand or just handwriting font on computer. Tyler even signed himself on the paper so that the authenticity could be emphasized, however, it is hard to say whether it is hand-written or digitalized sign.

At the fourth layer of the material code, the poem is written by black ink on white paper so that it creates as a frame for the poem. Under the paper are pieces of unidentified black wood. Looking at the picture, readers could see the open place under two pieces of wood, which creates different 3D layers of the picture from under the wood, the wood, the poem and the geographer. Effectively one open large space was created through the picture.  

In the new media generation, poetry has adapted itself into new platforms with new message and functions. The material code of the poem suggested by Kila gives us a lot of information about the distinctive features of Instapoetry, which are not available in classical poetry type. By analyzing these layers, we could develop the functions and messages under the popularity of Instapoetry and its impact on human daily lives.