Friends Kalliope and Lyra have a few things in common: they’re both designers who study graphic design and art in Indiana, and they’re both 23. They’re also both anonymous poets on TikTok, posting their work to thousands of followers every day.
“I decided to be anonymous online because it allowed me to be more open and vulnerable,” Kalliope says. “I could write whatever I wanted without fear of negative backlash in my personal life.”
For most people, poetry is something that they only interacted with back in a classroom setting, but on TikTok and Instagram, poetry is very much alive and well. Poets like Rupi Kaur and Morgan Harper Nichols are racking up millions of followers on Instagram for their clean aesthetic and short form prose. Instagram poetry, as Lyra explains, is more direct than the old-school, academic poetry you might have studied. “It’s a lot shorter than I feel like most poems are, and it gets to the point,” she explains. “A lot of people can connect and relate to it, but it doesn’t really have the flowery like metaphors and the kind of the rhythm that old school academic poetry has.”
Brett Lauer, from The Poetry Society, says that poetry’s presence on social media is just another evolution of the art form. “After 9/11, there was a poem that went viral over email. Now there are these Insta-poets, and now that TikTok has become popular, young people are posting there. It’s a natural progression.” With accounts like @poetryisnotaluxury on Instagram garnering over 500,000 followers, the reach of social media surpasses most traditional avenues. “Compare that even to the subscribers of the New Yorker’s poems,” Lauer says. “All of a sudden you have way more eyes on the work.”
For Lyra, sharing her poetry online has been a hobby since she was a teenager, posting on her Tumblr account. Last August, she decided to take her poetry onto TikTok. “It was kind of like the call of the void. Like, I could just write stuff on TikTok, and no one would really see it. And that kind of continued for probably about five months. And then suddenly, one of my poems went viral.”