Sunday, 10 June 2018

Poetry: Risk-Taking & InstaPoets

'overdramatic love poetry' (9/6/18)

'priorities' (9/6/18)

'pronunciation' (9/6/18)

Writing poetry is difficult. When you have little inspiration and find that even prompts aren't really doing anything for you lately, it can be borderline impossible to string a bunch of words together in a profound manner.

But poetry does not always have to be profound. The above poems are the first ones I've written in two weeks or so, and they're shallow little verses about crushes and physical attraction. Guess this is what people mean when they advise writers to write what they know, huh?

Even after having studied English & Creative Writing at university, I still consider myself an amateur poet. I admire poets, and I'm always desperate to come up with new and inventive ways of expressing myself through the written word, through rhyme, rhythm and structure. And sometimes, I am so desperate to find a new spin on an old concept or a new gimmick to draw in potential readers that it takes me an age to even write four lines.

Oh, how I love being a perfectionist.

This is where using Instagram as a platform for sharing writing becomes a frustrating practice. Much Instagram poetry is overly simplistic, where the definition of 'poetry' is stretched just thin enough for people to still believe that the words before them are meaningful in some way. This type of writing is not one that I can accurately describe. I would say that this pseudo-deep poetry takes the form of a five-word quote on a plain background, but there are plenty of very short poems that have hit me in the gut over the year I have been immersed in the writing community, so it is not an issue of length. It may be an issue of vocabulary, since plenty of writers believe that throwing a lot of long and obscure words into their works automatically makes them sound impressive. It does not. At the end of the day, however, writers are obviously allowed to express themselves in any way they like. Don't let an asshole on the Internet like me stop you from speaking your truth, fellow poets.

But I would very much like to say a few words about a certain Instagram poet that has gotten on my nerves over the last few months.

I began following this individual more out of fascination than anything else. His poetry didn't feel like poetry to me (and yes, everybody has a different opinion on what 'real poetry' is, and his follower count was far higher than mine can ever hope to be, so clearly there is a vast audience for poetry like his). It felt too simplistic, too pandering, and it always screamed 'woe is me' without having the self-awareness to back it up and make him sound like a sympathetic narrator. Not long ago, he rebranded and began writing more poems about love, as well as plenty of smutty poems, which drove many of his followers away. I stuck around while he joked about how he was weeding out the prudes and the weak ones. I didn't mind the smut, and some of it was even enjoyable in its scandalous nature. There's something intriguing about a writer revealing a different side to their personality.

But shortly after this, I unfollowed him. Because it dawned on me how odd his poetry truly was. It didn't read like sexy poetry, like a sensual exploration of words and sex and emotion. It read like a string of random, unconnected thoughts straight from the brain of a typical 'nice guy' obsessed with tits and ass. Sure, there were plenty of people who were totally into it, leaving heart-eye emojis and water-drop emojis in the comments (and they're totally entitled to their opinion - don't let me put you off enjoying the things that you enjoy), but everything about his writing started to annoy me. The smut no longer made my eyes widen or made me gasp from how dirty it was, but increasingly made me roll my eyes at how repetitive it had become. We get it, he likes sex. We get it, he thinks that his girl has a nice ass. We get it, he likes to describe sex using weird metaphors in an attempt to make him sound more interesting.

Which brings me back to my above poems. Yes, I may sound like a hypocrite for looking down upon one writer's smutty poems while writing and sharing my own, but hear me out. I find that it is difficult to write smutty poetry without sounding incredibly corny or downright crass. These are not necessarily bad labels, I should point out, because sexy poetry can have a sense of humour, making it less intense, or it can be played as deliberately lustful and almost aggressive in an attempt to shock an audience. But falling into both categories at the same time was what this particular InstaPoet achieved, and this culminated in his poetry simply sounding like locker room banter or embarrassing Tinder messages. The limited scope of things that he wrote about and the repetitive ways in which he described sex and relationships just began to bore me, and his "poems" were too frustratingly short to establish any kind of mood.

I think what I'm trying to say is that this poet got under my skin, and yet he inspired me to start writing smutty poetry of my own. Sex sells, after all, so this could potentially be a good thing for my follower count, plus I've found that it's just a fun exercise to write about the giddy feelings of shallow love and attraction. Since I only have 430 or so Instagram followers and I am not drastically changing my writing persona, this is not exactly a risk for me creatively, but it is a little unusual, and I'm in unexplored territory here. For one thing, family members follow me on Instagram, so it's weird to think that they are perhaps reading these poems about what should be secretive thoughts (sorry, lads) and for another thing, I'm so inexperienced in the area of sex and relationships that these works are pretty much just drawn from pure emotion, not necessarily interaction.

This post turned out to be far longer than I intended. Rereading it, I feel like it's gone nowhere, but poetry is something which I could talk about for hours, going round and round in circles. This post could be 10,000 words long and still not be resolved, so I'll just leave it here for now.

And let me just end this by stating for the record that I in no way think that I am superior to other InstaPoets. Everybody has their own unique style, and each style appeals to a different audience. I have my favourites, and my favourites will have their favourites too. And I'm sure that there are plenty of people who have given my poetry a chance, but have ultimately been unimpressed and decided to unfollow and never give my work another glance. That's absolutely okay. You do you. We all have our preferences, after all. Feel free to write on your blog about how cliché and emo my poetry is. I won't exactly disagree with you.

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