Instagram poets like Rupi Kaur and Atticus have been polarizing forces in the literary world: on the one hand, they have millions of followers (and sell books in similar numbers); on the other, they tend to ignore existing poetic traditions, and pretty much everything else that print poets consider essential to the genre. So, is what they write really poetry? And according to whom? For the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog, poet and scholar Timothy Yu considers in greater depth the significance of these Instagram poets in the larger world(s) of contemporary poetry and writing, “It’s very easy to respond, as many have, by dismissing [Instagram poets] as ‘not real poets’ who pander to untutored readers. But isn’t there also a tinge of jealousy in our response? A sense that our work and the work of our peers should be recognized, and rewarded, by a larger audience? And an uncomfortable awareness of how small and closed our ‘actual’ poetry world can sometimes seem?”
The Table 4 Writers Foundation was founded in memory of Elaine Kaufman, a larger-than-life literary personality and hostess who supported NYC writers at her restaurant for many years, and awards grants to promising writers for unpublished work. The 2014 winners have just been released, and their prizewinning work can be read online. There will also be a gala in honor of the winners on April 30 in NYC, and tickets can be purchased here.