Lang Leav first shared her poems on Tumblr in 2012 before self-publishing her debut, Love & Misadventure, the following year. Within months, she joined Writers House and landed a publishing contract with Andrews McMeel. Today, with nearly 2 million followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the poet/novelist has sold over a million copies of her books, including the latest, Sea of Strangers.
Why did you decide to first publish your work on Tumblr?
There was no rhyme or reason. It all started from Tumblr. I was building up my following and saving up to self-publish my first book, Love & Misadventure, and I was just hoping to make back what I spent. It went a lot better than expected. I was only self-published for a couple of months and I think I had sold over 10,000 copies.
You’ve had a positive experience with social media, but what are some of its downsides?
I grew up in a time when there wasn’t social media and I’m always glad that I did. I think it’s quite a perilous place just because we used to compare ourselves to those around us—a few of our peers, maybe a teacher—now it’s almost like the entire world. I think it’s not always an honest reflection from the world, and that can be unhealthy in ways. Like with everything, it has its benefits and pros and cons.
Poetry sales are up. Why are more people turning to it?
When Love & Misadventure first came out I was next to Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Frost, and now it’s almost like a whole category with the new YA. I always felt there was something there [and] always loved poetry. It’s the most beautiful form of language and it was sad to me that it was dying. I felt if only I could make it relatable to people so it wasn’t too esoteric. I think there is absolutely a place for esoteric poetry, and I love esoteric poetry, but the type I write can be a stepping stone to people getting engaged with the category, and I think that sales have improved for poetry on the whole because of this modern genre.
What do you think defines the modern genre of poetry?
This new and dynamic movement is sometimes referred to as ‘instapoetry.’ A label I personally believe is silly and makes no sense. Using a social platform to define a genre of writing is just ridiculous. I think ‘Pop Poetry’ would be a far better description. If any comparison were to be made, look at the emergence of the Beat poets in the 1950’s. This wave of poets, which included Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, were basically anti-establishment. It was a literary movement born from a place of creativity and self-expression, by writers who tapped into the pulse of their generation. Which I guess is what’s happening now and perhaps explains the rise of Pop Poetry and its popularity with a more contemporary audience.
Have you experienced criticism for being an “Internet age poet?”
I think sometimes I do get put into that category, but all writers share their work online. J.K. Rowling does it; every single author does. The fact is I’m a modern poet, and that social media is a tool that I use, but I would’ve found my way regardless.
What’s next for you?
My new poetry book, Love Looks Pretty on You (Jan. 2019), pays homage to the strength of the female spirit. I celebrate the lives of woman, our work, the relationships we have with others, and the one we have with ourselves. As for my next novel, the expected release is in 2019. I am keeping the details under wraps for now.