What makes art worthy?
Not old measures of value
But pure emotion
I used to be a skeptic of Insta-poetry.
Nevermind my own snippets of words, hanging on sticky notes slathered over my cupboard doors. Nevermind the gallery on my phone bursting with screenshots of specific quotes I found particularly relatable. Nevermind my admiration for the short three-liners cropped into a square and slotted into a carefully curated feed.
I heard a poet say that modern poetry could never be considered real art and I slipped down the rabbit hole.
I didn’t question this critique. Instead, I embraced it – the way you accept the gossip from a tabloid, the way you let an unreasonable mob mentality fester inside you, the way you scorn something for no reason other than someone else did.
I echoed the idea that Insta-poetry was a fad, that it was a trend, that there was no real skill, no real thought. It was made for quick likes and re-posts, only to disappear into the void of the internet and the depths of the explore tab without a second thought. I wrote my own poetry, declaring how I thought Insta-poetry was a scam, and that I wanted to hear “real” writing.
I read that poem now and cringe at my holier-than-thou attitude towards writers who did exactly what I did with my own words, who expressed themselves the best and most effective way they knew how.
What was I doing limiting art? Who was I to say some words were valuable and some had no worth? How could I preach in letters that creating was the most human act of all – and then disregard heartfelt creations as not real? Why would I let the opinion of one person tell me how to evaluate the world?
If we’re being honest, I feel kind of sheepish about my previous pretentious opinions. It’s silly as a writer and a creative not recognizing some kinds of writing as an art. And since I made the shift back into the world of embracing Insta-poetry, I’ve found I actually love it.
Nowadays, I watch interviews with Rupi Kaur as she writes a personal journey in double-spaced epigrams, and eye her books out on the shelves at the shop. I translate my friend Kaylee’s Afrikaans Insta-poetry and find that I was missing out in more than one language. In October, I even went into Downtown Toronto to attend a poetry reading by Atticus. The evening of writing inspired me to write a prose piece.
It’s 22:12 and my head hurts from this flu, but I’m sipping water and watching the city go by as I try to keep myself awake as not to miss my stop. Atticus is shorter in person (but still relatively tall when we’re standing beside each other), and he laughs and says “Chanel No. 5” when we take the picture. My face hurts from smiling while talking to him about the dedications for my friends in South Africa (Caro and Kaylee, look out for some post real soon!) and he thanks me for coming out to see him; I thank him and all the staff on my way off the stage. My dad was picked out from the crowd to come on stage to win me a jumper – it’s pink and aesthetic and I love it but it’s a size L and I’m not a very big person, so I’ll give it to my Mom when we get home & I think about the second’s book dedication and how fitting it is. I have a cold and I’m tired and the lukewarm Starbucks I had (paired with chilli my Mom insisted we pack because food is expensive & chilli is good) didn’t wake me up for long enough, but I stand in a queue and chat with the girls behind me, who laugh over weird neo-Greek art and early 2000s web dating Katy Perry covers (I wish I was joking but at the same time, it was the funniest conversation I’ve had with strangers). The publishing agent assigning sticky notes to the inside covers gives me her email and tells me to write for advice about internships – my dad tells me to take it to heart and make myself visible. I still don’t know what I want to do in September but for an evening all I need to think about is poetry, passion, and when to get off the 98-Yonge (northbound).
Judging short poems
Can you see the irony?
It’s not lost on me
Short poems have lived
Since the dawn of the first ink
In five seven five.