I follow a lot of writers—whether that be on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr (John Green, anyone?), or Instagram. But Cheryl Strayed doesn’t post sneak peeks of her manuscripts. No, she posts photos of her with Reece Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who apparently are now her best friends after starring in the film adaptation of her memoir, Wild:
I mean, come on. They’re even rocking sunglasses. I think it’s safe to say Cheryl’s living the dream.
It’s harder to share passages of prose on a platform like Instagram. And when authors do release excerpts, it’s generally in a magazine—online or in print. Poets have an advantage on Instagram. For published writers to those less established, Instagram—and features of the digital age, like hashtags for one—gives savvy poets the ability to reach a huge pool of readers from all over the world.
The significance of this is that writers who plan on continuing the craft for years—those who know that they may one day seek to publish a collection of poems or even a novel—can begin developing a following early on in their careers before they ever have a single piece in print. This completely upturns the typical way that the industry works, where publishers act as “gatekeepers.”
There are plenty of ways to approach creating an Instagram for your poetry. As you’ll see from some of the poets whose accounts I’ve included below, some writers choose to separate their personal and professional accounts. This makes sense if you’re a private person or if you simply don’t want to bog down your current followers’ feeds with your poetry (Hey, not everyone’s a word nerd. We get it?). Other writers combine a little bit of it all, the personal, the professional, other hobbies and careers (like photography). And still, other writers choose to remain anonymous, preferring the use of a pen name.
As with all of writing and publishing, there is no one approach, but I think the poets of Instagram prove just how valuable social media can be for writers today. Here are just a few Instagram pages you should stop by:
Alexa Bolton and I went to college together as undergraduates, where we took a creative writing class in poetry. I remember back then, as she so often does now on her Instagram page, hearing her read poems she had written about love. And she does it beautifully. So much so that in the short time since she created her Instagram account (specifically for her poetry) back in January, she has gained nearly four thousand followers. Most of the pieces she posts are unedited. Alexa now teaches at Loyola Marymount University, where she earned herself a fellowship as she works towards her master’s degree.
Tyler Knott Gregson was recently featured in our Author Spotlight column. He’s a poet whose collection Chasers of the Light was published by Perigee Trade this month and a photographer who runs his company, Tree House Photography, with his partner Sarah Linden. He also posts a lot of amazing photography and daily haikus on his account—it’s definitely worth checking out.
Rio Jones is a pen name for an anonymous poet living in Philadelphia. He dropped out of college only to re-enroll with some prodding from his former poetry professor. He studied Latin American history and eventually traveled to Mexico where he worked in a taco shop and slept in hammocks, while studying and translating indigenous poetry.
Adrian Hendryx is—well, I’m actually not sure who she is. I do know that she is an aspiring Canadian writer. I’ve been following her for a while now (along with 3,565 other folks) and her poetry is refreshingly honest and quirky. Like when she describes someone giving another person the finger and how she believes it marks the existence of unicorns, she has a way of planting images that stick in your mind.
Tony Campa posts four-part poems on his Instagram account. He has an interactive poetry book entitled Four Part Poems in which he encourages readers to bring the “journal” with them, snap photos of the pages, and contribute pieces of their own—a true poet of the social media age. Campa is also great at taking photos of his poems in spaces and landscapes that are beautiful in their own right—like the poem below.
And yes, sometimes even the queen herself (Beyonce, of course) is a part-time Instagram poet. She really can do it all.
Update: Please note that since I originally published this post, I have been notified that the original author of the poem pictured above, titled “The Invitation,” is Oriah Mountain Dreamer. I apologize for any confusion this has caused.