January 31, 2023

Do you remember yourself captivated by a line or two excerpts from a poem you really loved? And when you see them reposted online, you feel connected with those who shared and love-reacted them. Does it also feel like old times to you? Today, a line or two aren’t just excerpts. They could be the whole poem!
If you are on Instagram or other social media accounts, you have probably read a few byte-sized poems (pun intended). Now, not even literature is evaded by technology and popular culture. Perhaps, you’re familiar with Lang Leav and her partner Michael Faudet and their evocative poems about love. How about Rupi Kaur’s quatrains from her “Milk and Honey” poem collections, or the mysterious Atticus’ couplets? Even if you are not familiar with the authors, I bet the format is familiar. Maybe you have even shared them or saved it on your phone because it hit the spot. They are called instapoetry, and it’s a budding literary genre.
Instapoetry embraces modernity and simplicity. Many like them because they are direct, short, and instantly relatable. They could be six words that make you go aaaw! Like a haiku but not a haiku, simply three lines that lament a heartbreak. Some are even lesser than a haiku. A few words combined, appealing to your deepest sentiments. Like a quote, memorable with the composition’s scarcity in words. They could be similes and metaphors played with fervor, melancholy, or bliss.
While some readers appreciate instapoetry, the emerging literary pop culture also attracted critics. Arguments about how instapoetry cannot compare to real poetry surfaced. And a lot followed. Some critics stated instapoetry does not tell real emotions, just pretentious words in the guise of poetry written to attract attention. Looking at the fast pace and frequency at which instapoets publish their work, they were compared with poets who took time to craft their literature. And so, instapoets are called instant poets (instead of Instagram poets).
We can talk about this contention all day if we know where we stand in this debate. But one thing is sure that should be up for discussion, the younger generation is buying instapoetry. They are perfect for quick reading, and they almost require little to noncritical thinking. Is that a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not.
But instapoetry did arouse interest in literature, and I would like to animate that interest. If you could appreciate the one to four verses or a stanza of instapoetry, you would surely love traditional poems that have a lot in store. The verbose language may be a bushy path to clean before knowing what a poem is all about. But all you need is to read closer, analyze the deep metaphors and irregular forms of language.
This school semester, I was introduced to a technique known as close reading. This technique taught me to internalize texts and meaning to an abysmal depth. In our translation class, we were trained to look beyond the superficial structures and implications of the sentences, phrases, and words to capture the most appropriate and accurate meaning of the verses from the original text to the language we are translating in. In close reading, there are three questions you are going to figure. What is the piece all about? How did the piece say what it meant? And you would come to ask yourself, why did the author write this way to tell this? And like that, you would engage your mind more than you can in instapoems. It is more than just an academic pursuit. It is a passion you can hone, especially if you are an avid reader.
April is National Literature Month. Now is the perfect time to commemorate poets of our own. Their poems may be longer than two lines, written in traditional forms, complex structure, and obscure figures of speech, but these are their essential beauty.
Have you read some of Luisa Igloria’s? She is based in the U.S. now as the current poet laureate of Virginia, but her works honor her home country still. She is also from Baguio, and she has written books and pieces about Cordillera. She has a book dedicated to Cordilleran myths and tales and a collection of poems entitled “In the Garden of the Three Islands.” Doesn’t the title feel homely to you? It does to me. The first time my eyes caught the title, I felt the pride and belongingness from the garden of the three islands, Cordillera. In this book, Igloria recollects the pieces of her memories, her heritage of folklore and tradition, and the pains of leaving her hometown.
Of course we have more poets from different decades, genres, languages. Igloria is only a new personal favorite from the 21st century poets. Our instructor introduced her too, not long ago. Reading her works, I think they are just too priceless not to share. Pieces like these do not conveniently surface on the Internet, unlike instapoems which are published online to be known until they get printed on paper.
But well, treasures are dug. We have many local and national poets acclaimed or aspiring whose words extraordinarily spoke deep if we only read and comprehend beyond the superficial. Two lines of a poem may be enough to impress you, but reading and feeling 22 or more is an epic experience.
(MEAGAN KENJH D. SABADO)