Examining the Rise in Poetry
A lot has been written about the so-called rise in poetry. A lot of newspapers have run articles about it, people are clamouring to understand what is making people more interested in poetry, where before it was barely being read, and like most physical books—especially fiction books from bookshops—had a plummeting readership.
There are plenty of reasons why there’s an increased interest in poetry. Firstly, it’s more accessible. By this I mean that it’s more physically accessible, as well as being accessible in the way that it’s written. Platforms like YouTube, as well as audio anthologies, are making poetry free to listen to, and an increased number of poetry events, including poetry slams, are making going somewhere to listen to poetry more possible. Although in a now infamous article Rebecca Watts (a prize-shortlisted poet in her own right) wrote an essay in which she decried “the rise of a cohort of young female poets who are currently being lauded by the poetic establishment for their ‘honesty’ and ‘accessibility’—buzzwords for the open denigration of intellectual engagement and rejection of craft,” poets like Hollie McNish are making the form of poetry itself relatable to more people in their direct style.
There are fewer gatekeepers now when it comes to poetry. There was a time when there was nowhere to submit a poetry manuscript unless one already had a contract with a major publishing house. Now, thanks to a number of new, prolific publishers, more poetry is being accepted for publication. More poetry books being printed means there are more poetry books available to be bought and read. As well as this, there are more journals to browse, again freely, and the internet has helped poetry massively; whether through a journal, zine, or not, one can browse thousands of poems online.
Besides all this, there is the very recent phenomenon of the rise of poetry personalities, as I like to think of them. These are poets for whom poetry is secondary to their personalities. Their primary goal is to be photographed at readings, to do readings, to look nice and attractive on social media, and to amass a following. Their end goal is to gain as much publicity and self-exposure as possible. Their lifestyle becomes poetry. Whether or not one views this lifestyle as positive or not, their personalities draw people in to engage with their work, thus their books get bought. They inspire others to want to become poets and to want to read poetry out loud to others.
It would be impossible to examine the rise in poetry without discussing Rupi Kaur, the most famous of the ‘insta poets’, and in discussing instapoetry I come closest to why I think there is a rising interest in poetry. Instapoetry provides easy-to-digest poetry; it is poetry that can be read anywhere in one sitting. It’s also ornamental poetry, as it is as much about how it looks on the page through sparseness, formatting, and aesthetics, as its contents or meaning. It is enjoyed in the same way that you enjoy your houseplant collection. However, there is hope. After engaging with instapoetry, many people go on to read poetry more widely. I think all poetry provides readers with something sacred, beautiful, and often a feeling of secrecy. Poetry can make the throwaway, dull nature of life seem meaningful. Poetry makes things feel like they matter, and I think that in the socio-political time that we live in, we need things to matter and we need to feel special ourselves.
Perhaps there is also a consumeristic element to the rise in poetry. Our society is increasingly consumeristic, and a poetry book is just another object to buy. It is also interesting to break down the increase in interest in poetry further—most poetry books are being bought by women under 30. Again, I believe this lies in the desire for beauty. I would not be surprised at all if it were also because women desire to use poetry as a tool to reclaim the narrative of their gender.
Whatever the reason for the increased interest in poetry, it can only be a good thing, as it is a rich artform with limitless potential that one can engage in as much or as little as the other variables of life allow.
© 2020 Setareh Ebrahimi
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Setareh Ebrahimi performs regularly, and is a poet working in Faversham, Kent. She is the author of In My Arms from Bad Betty Press.