September 28, 2018

Eileen Myles on Instagram as a form of poetry


If you’re a poet and looking for some new spaces to share your work, maybe it’s time to give Instagram a try.

Photo via @eileen.myles

So suggests award-winning American poet Eileen Myles, in an interview with Vanity Fair on their latest book of poetry, Evolution:

I think poetry is in a really great moment right now because of all the social media and texting; it’s both a place where you can drop a line. When I teach poetry, I teach people that it’s not your vocabulary, it’s not even really a personal feeling for what you think you have to say. It’s a body language and it’s an attitude and it’s a pace and a frequency that winds up being really interesting. It’s just a mix. I think that’s what poetry is, and I think that’s what’s being shared in this moment. Instagram is a real new playground. […] I want to, in a way, re-introduce poetry to people as visual art.

Both established and emerging poets have posted their work on Instagram as image cards, but not many have considered actual photos as poetry. For example, Myles’ Instagram is a mix of shots from buildings and people to poetry-loving-dogs and screenshots of texts. The camera-phone #nofilter quality of the pictures isn’t exactly eye-catching, but it’s the combination of authenticity and the surrounding context that gives off that poetic vibe. To reiterate Myles’ own words: “It’s just a mix.”

That may seem like a stretch, especially for poets who prefer pen and paper, but it’s certainly not the first time writers have experimented with technology and visualization. Just look at gogoame, a web art experiment where people can read poetry out of raining text, or Moving Poems, a collection of “poem films” that combine poetry and filmography. If Instagram is a new playground for poets to test out, 21st century tech as a whole is a damn toy store.

So the next time you’re out in the wild snapping pics for the ‘gram, consider framing it as a poem.

Alyssa Monera is an intern at Melville House.