It was 2:00 a.m. on a rainy Tuesday. As the lightning flashed and the bitter winds whistled through the trees outside my window, I couldn’t help but drown myself in the struggles of being a 13 year old caged in the constrictions of the lack of honesty and authenticity in the arts of the world I was growing up in. So I began writing away.
A few years and hundreds of poems later, I’m still here, among a community around me that has similar stories to mine. According to a survey carried out by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), for the first time in more than 20 years, poetry reading is growing in the US. The percentage of Americans who said they had read poetry in the prior 12 months was 11.7 percent in 2017, up from 6.7 percent in 2012.
Upon looking through the Instagram feed of pretty much any teenager, it is very evident why. The outreach of poetry has become far more widespread than ever, thanks to platforms like Instagram. Poetry is generally less time-consuming to digest for the reader, while still being effective and powerful.
According to the NEA’s study, the poetry reading rate among people ages 18-24 more than doubled, rising from 8.2 percent in 2012 to 17.5 percent in 2017. Women, who typically account for the majority of all poetry readers, also showed a significant increase: 14.5 percent said they had read poetry in the last year, compared to only eight percent five years ago. Among different racial and ethnic groups, African Americans, Asian Americans, and other non-white, non-hispanic groups read poetry at a highest rates.
Through social media, poetry has given a voice to those who would otherwise be less likely to get their thoughts out into the world. The widespread success of poets like Rupi Kaur and r.h.Sin is what allows young writers to have such hope for success in the field, too. Kaur’s books, “milk and honey” (2014) and “the sun and her flowers” (2017), were self-published. Her first collection, “milk and honey,” has been translated into 40 languages and has sold 3.5 million copies, granting it the title of a best-selling poetry book.
These books and their messages disprove the common notion that poetry is too old-school or boring. Poetry in this form is no longer just a complex form of art that simply put, just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The meaning is portrayed in the simplicity of its kind, and that makes it easier for the youth to indulge in and fall in love with.
Poetry has always been an irresistible form of art, but it has always been difficult to maintain as a full-time career, for even the best of poets. The pursuit of poetry has long been a battle between two worlds: making a living and making art from passion.
Social media poets are not always just writers; many are activists and often the only source of therapy and inspiration that this new generation has access to. These artistic wonders, though entrapped within the walls of Instagram posts most scroll through in less than a second, are influential enough to get you through your darkest days and help you celebrate every little success.