Can You Tell a Rupi Kaur Poem from a Knock-off?

Instapoetry has garnered polarized responses. Are we being scammed by its simplicity, or do its short phrases hit home?

Illustrator: Stevie Lacher

You are probably no stranger to someone who moonlighted as a beauty blogger in high school. Perhaps you’ve been acquainted with a boy certain that he is the next Eminem, and after you’ve heard three minutes of his horrifyingly offensive lyrics on YouTube, you take a minute to question what went wrong. Among these variations of ambition resides a specimen who has built a home of words within the confines of an Instagram page, dubbing it “instapoetry,” leaving in their wake a contentious art form.

The simple, minimalistic style of instapoetry has lent it a fan-base of millions of followers. Consisting of only a few, concise lines, instapoetry has provided its audience with an easy-to-digest form of poetry. The crowned queen of this practice is none other than Rupi Kaur, the best-selling author of Milk and Honey. Having sold millions of copies of her book, Kaur is among the poets who are reshaping our perception of poetry. In the face of this phenomenon, poetry becomes mainstream. It comes within the public’s grasp in the span of seconds as they scroll through their newsfeeds.

With poems as simple as, “give to those/who have nothing/to give to you,” some literary critics are not buying this epidemic form of expression. The simplicity of the poetry seems to mock the offline poets who take the complexity of their craft seriously. Kaur’s work, especially, has been subject to this criticism. Even if you do appreciate her work, you have to admit—you can’t help but crack up at parodies like, “i was orange juice but you/had just brushed your teeth – rupi kaur.”

Jokes aside, instapoets who have garnered millions of followers are a testament to their craft. The ability to reach an audience and make them feel something is the essence of poetry. Regardless of where you stand, Nielson Book Research has reported that poetry sales have risen by 13 percent from last year. Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, there is no denying that instapoetry had something to do with the revival of this art—an outcome that should satisfy any poetry enthusiast.