Short, straightforward poetry is TikTok’s latest literary trend, attracting plenty of fans and critics alike, though some poets say the popularity of poems as short as one sentence long has made it far too easy for others to plagiarize.
Poets are finding a huge following on TikTok: The #poetry hashtag has more than 48 billion views, and its most popular writers have garnered hundreds of thousands of followers.
Often written in straightforward language and sometimes as short as just two lines, TikTok’s most viral poems are quick to read and easily digestible, a successful formula for writers trying to keep up with the platform’s fast pace.
TikTok poetry has sparked both admiration as well as criticism from people who feel some of the most popular poems are too simplistic to be truly considered poetry.
The demand for poems that may just be one sentence long also makes it easier for writers to lift ideas from each other, poet J. Strelou tells Forbes, as writers could plausibly claim they had the same idea.
Some poets who share their work on social media allege their poems have been plagiarized and published in books and posted on TikTok by users with bigger platforms, leaving the original authors unsure of how to push back against those who may be profiting off of their work.
Aliza Grace, who has more than 500,000 followers on TikTok, self-publishes poetry collections through Amazon and posts videos of her poems to her TikTok page. But in a 69-tweet-long Twitter thread, first posted in March 2022 but updated as recently as February 2023, poet Sabina Laura has documented instances accusing Grace of plagiarism, posting side-by-side comparisons of previously published poems or internet quotes with Grace’s poems, which are often identical aside from minor word or grammar changes. Poet Kristina Mahr also alleged Grace copied one of her poems, making small changes like switching “dog” for “cat,” and tells Forbes she’s reported Grace’s poems to Amazon and TikTok, but she hasn’t pursued legal action because sending a cease and desist letter may be expensive and she’s unsure how to contact Grace (Mahr says Grace blocked her on TikTok and she has no email address on her social media platforms). Five poets named in Laura’s thread—Laura herself, Mahr, William Bortz, Strelou and Chloë Frayne—all confirmed to Forbes they believe Grace plagiarized their poems. Forbes has reached out to Grace for comment through Instagram direct message, and will update this piece with any comment.
The simplicity of TikTok poetry has drawn criticism from some social media users. One Twitter user posted screenshots of two poems from TikTok, writing: “We have to shut down poetry until we figure out what’s going on.” The tweet—which garnered more than 130,000 likes—contained screenshots of poems by Leslie B, a writer who maintains a popular TikTok platform. “when we first met / i had no idea / that i would become / so attached,” one of her poems reads. Some users responded to that tweet with their own short, satirical poems to criticize TikTok’s poetry style. “poetry is not / a normal sentence / broken into / smaller fragments,” one user wrote. In a popular tweet, one user wrote: “Rupi Kaur and her consequences have been a disaster for poetry,” referring to Kaur’s popularization of simplistic poetry, known as “Instapoetry” for its popularity on Instagram.
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