Poetry is going viral, and the poets of [Dis]Connected can tell you why Social media poetry is suddenly everywhere: on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and increasingly in print, too. These short, snappy poems, often accompanied by illustrations, are shared by countless readers every day. The better known social media poets can have online followings that number in the hundreds of thousands.
The anthology [Dis]-Connected: Poems & Stories of Connection and Otherwise, edited by Michelle Halket and published by Central Avenue Publishing, presents the voices of many of these poets, from some of the biggest names, like Amanda Lovelace, to relative newcomers. The BookCon panel "The Poetry Connection: Stories from Today's Most Popular Poets," will feature several poets, most of whom are contributors to [Dis]Connected, in a discussion led by Michelle Halket.
Many of the first, and now well-known, poets on social media, like Warsan Shire, Nayyirah Waheed, Yrsa Daley-Ward, and Rupi Kaur, were women of color, especially Black women immigrants to the U.K. Their poems discussed such topics of marginalization as misogyny (including sexual violence), racism, mental illness, and the migrant experience. These authors often turned to social media after facing exclusion from traditional publishing, and they paved the way for many other poets from a variety of backgrounds and gender orientations. As panelist K.Y. Robinson says, "Women of color have spearheaded this movement, and I hope their contributions aren't erased. Their brilliant work inspired me and countless others to self-publish. We need more marginalized groups telling their stories, especially [now]."
The community that has grown around poetry on social media strives to produce an inclusive atmosphere while at the same time engaging with difficult topics. "With my art," says Amanda Lovelace, "I always aim to create a safe place where other queer people can see themselves reflected."
Both the anthology and the panel discussion focus on connection and its reverse, disconnection—themes that are integral to the social media poetry experience. Contributor Cyrus Parker says, "I've made connections with so many amazing people ever since I started posting my poetry online, both writers and readers. We don't see each other as competition, but instead, we support and lift one another up."
Global connection is part of this poetry and of [DisConnected. As South African panelist Iain S. Thomas puts it, "[Some readers] want you to be the South African version of someone who already exists, the South African Lee Child, the South African Margaret Atwood, the South African Jonathan Franzen. I made a decision a while back that I would rather be the world's Iain Thomas."
As social media communities develop and new technologies arise, poetry adapts. This process is ongoing and can be witnessed in [Dis]Connected, too. Social media poetry can have a specific aesthetic, and it often includes visual elements, such as illustrations or unique ways of shaping and presenting poetic lines. A number of the contributors to the anthology have a design background.
Several of the stories in [Dis]Connected, which were written in response to the poems, have fantasy elements, from selkies to dragon taming, and still engage with the serious themes of the authors' poetry. As author Amanda Lovelace explains, "By taking an issue like intimate partner abuse and putting it in the context of a world constructed from scratch with characters and a magic system to become invested in, we're finally able to make connections that we weren't necessarily able to make [otherwise]. It's about giving your reader a fresh perspective free of their own everyday distractions." The magic can also be present in the mundane, like in Nikita Gill's story. Gill says, "Perhaps your next door neighbor was a magical being all along, and we just missed it until now. I wanted to explore this disconnect within us as humans that makes us miss what could be something that changes our lives." Another contributor, Trista Mateer put it this way: "At the root of everything is truth, whether it's short, fabulist fiction or confessional poetry."
Now we can follow these poets in their quest: on the panel discussion, while reading the anthology and their collections, and in the follow-up volumes that Michelle Halket is already planning.