Earlier this year, the National Endowment for the Arts reported that 12 percent of American adults, about 28 million people, read poetry in the past year. These numbers are the highest they’ve been in the report’s 15 year history. In the poetry world, this is encouraging, as this represents a significant increase from just five years ago.
What has attributed to this increase? Social media and stronger outreach activities have had a significant influence on this endeared art form. There have also been more creative efforts through grants to publishers, writers-in-residence programs, fellowships and other initiatives.
Instagram and YouTube have made it possible for poets to showcase their art and promote their books. Rupi Kaur rose to fame in 2014 after posting her poetry on social media. Her first book, Milk and Honey, became a best-selling collection and has been on the New York Times Bestseller list. Her presentation is what people’s attention, as she brought something different yet relatable to the table.
It really is a time for poetry. A time of indifference and hearts bleeding for change. Over the years, poetry has been a voice to express emotions. Poetry raises awareness and our level of consciousness towards everything from social injustice to love. It persuades, comforts, and even challenges the status quo.
Poetry is an important conversation, yet people often say to me, “I’m just not that into poetry.” That response has always given me motivation to make poetry more accessible and enjoyable to readers.
The relationship between poetry and its readers is an intimate one. Its cultural relevance is evident and we don’t need numbers to show us how it makes you feel or the action you take afterwards.
As a child, I was always fascinated with poetry. It was hearing words rhyme but more importantly how it made me feel. It was always there for me; allowing me to express my thoughts and feelings without judgment. I didn’t have to share with anyone or I could allow people into my soul by letting them read it. It’s a vulnerable place to willing put yourself, but I accepted the charge in order to provide a free space for others.
The first time I read Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou, I felt so proud. I was in grade school and couldn’t really articulate every phrase but I knew that I was changed after reading it. And the feeling I had from Nikki Giovanni’s Ego Tripping could be put into words – nothing short of amazing.
These poems were crafted ingeniously and gripped my young spirit. They made me believe that I could provide that same feeling through my own words. Even to this day, I remember the influence those poems had over me.
As more people are putting down fiction and picking up poetry, I am encouraging you to do the same. A little bit goes a long way.