Poetry for the Masses: How social media is changing the landscape of written word

Written by Madeline Happold


Photo courtesy of Alexandria Dravillas 

Photo courtesy of Alexandria Dravillas 


It is April 25, 2013. Adrienne Novy, then only 17 and a junior in high school, sits with her laptop screen illuminated. She has two windows open on the desktop, one a Word document and the other her personal Tumblr page Poems To-Go. This was it, this was the moment she would share her feelings, thoughts, and stories with the world.


Hey, maybe she would have that one post that blows up. The one post that people would like and share repeatedly, and she would finally find that small glimmer of fame and validation, telling her that she was, in fact, a good writer. She stared at the poem, now rearranged into a 500x460 pixel box on the page. At the bottom of the text she added a string of words: #poetry, #spoken word, #illustration, #dreams. She checked the piece one final time then clicked post, quickly closing the computer and stepping away.


If you’ll be my orange portal,

Then I’ll be your blue.*


Six notes, not bad for a first poem.


“Tumblr was really a platform to force myself to put work out,” Novy, a sophomore and creative writing major at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, says. Almost three years later, Novy has now expanded to share her writing on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.


Novy is just one of many aspiring young writers flocking toward social media to help promote their work. Through social media, writers and poetry have received a surge in popularity as poetry moves from the textbook to the MacBook. On Instagram, #poetry has over 6 million posts. Sites such as Micropoetry embrace the 140-character-or-less restriction to create short poetry pieces applicable to Twitter and SMS sites. The YouTube site Button Poetry has over half a million subscribers and hundreds of spoken word videos, of which Novy has been featured.


“It really broadens the people art gets out to,” Novy says. “Social media allows poetry to reach other places.”


Screenshot of Novy's poem, "Lights," posted to her tumblr account, Poems To-Go.

Screenshot of Novy's poem, "Lights," posted to her tumblr account, Poems To-Go.


Caryn Mayo, poet and sophomore at Columbia University, also uses social media as an outlet to promote her personal work. Like Novy, she got her start through a personal Tumblr account, Blood Pact Poetry, dedicated to her writing.


“I’m not sure why I do the art that I do,” Mayo says. “I just have fun and other people seem to enjoy it. I think that is just all social media [is for] in general.”


While Mayo personally sticks specifically to Tumblr to share her writing, she understands the newfound relationship between poetry and social media.


“It’s pretty accessible and serves a purpose for writers,” Mayo says. “There are lots of different things to push on social media sites.”   


If we get through one, we can finish the rest,

For you give me hope when I’ve half a heart left.


Just as social media breeds benefits for writers, it also creates drawbacks. Sharing work on the wild world of the web can also increase the possibility of plagiarism. Writers can often find their work referenced or reposted on another user’s site without any credit or citation.


“People work really hard and want to share,” Novy says. “But posting unpublished work can be daunting because others can steal or copy your work.”


That doesn’t stop Novy from still sharing her writing. The young poet is currently participating in the 30/30 day Instagram challenge, in which she posts a new piece every day of the month.


“It forces [me] to get some sort of draft out there,” Novy says.


She says she no longer worries about perfecting a post, but leaves her words raw to speak for themselves.


“I was always a people pleaser,” Novy says, referring to past poetry. “I really wanted people to see it and like it. Now, I do it for an emotional purpose. You don’t realize how your words affect others until they’re posted.”


But this is a dream, despite of my tone,

For I’m just the nerd playing games all alone.


*excerpts from Adrienne Novy’s first posted Tumblr poem “Nerdfighterlike”

Find Adrienne Novy on Facebook, or buy her book, Washing Away Into Morning, at https://www.createspace.com/5623120?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026.


Contact Madeline by email at mhappold18@gmail.com