It’s no secret that I’m a person who loves words. A literature student, book nerd, and writer by profession and trade, I live for the well-written word.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve never been much of a poetry person. I love a Walt Whitman verse or a Neruda love line as much as the next person, but overall it hasn’t been my forte as a reader.
Slowly and surely, and perhaps coinciding with the rise of the Instagram poet or “Insta-poet,” whose words are absorbed through an iPhone screen, I found myself drawn to poetry in a very contemporary way. Themes of female empowerment, heartbreak, identity, and healing from trauma spoke directly to me.
I’ve also come to realize that the beauty of poetry, just as with all good writing, is packing a punch — using as few words as possible for maximum emotional effect. It’s not just about the meaning of the words. It’s the rhythm, the cadence, the musicality…the power.
Adding these female poets to my social media — particularly Instagram — has changed how I use the platform. Their words (and frankly, lack of staged imagery,) brought back some of the soul and the inspiration I had been missing there. The way I feel when I see something like this in my feed makes me feel influenced…in a positive way, for a change!
Here are five women whose powerful choice of words (and in most cases, also social media) has made them icons of modern poetry. I know many literary experts or poetry experts who would love to disagree — but their words are being read and felt by many and, if the poems convey meaning and connect us to the writer and to each other…is there more that needs to be qualified?
Each of their work continues to deeply impress upon me. I hope you get as much out of their stanzas and speech as I do.
1. Rupi Kaur
Is it even a list without mentioning this rockstar of a woman? Rupi Kaur rose to prominence with one controversial Instagram post, and has been topping the New York Times bestseller list since.
When her most recent book of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers, came out, I proceeded to sit in an armchair and devour it page-by-page, bookmarking corners and tearing up throughout.
Rupi has an almost otherworldly ability to express herself and connect with others through her work. Her poetry is especially resonant if you’re going through heartbreak (and who hasn’t.)
You can find her @rupikaur_ – though I recommend reading her books so that you can absorb her poems in sequence.
2. Nayyirah Waheed
Whereas Rupi’s poetry makes me feel like I know her and her story intimately, Nayyirah’s words tend to hit me personally. Her poems touch on universal themes of love, self-love, art, race, and more. They’re often reminders of simple truths we seem to easily forget — her words cut right to the point and right to your core. For this reason she’s one of my favorite follows on Twitter as well.
Find her @nayyirah.waheed.
things. that should be asked.
in every type of.
how is your heart.
is your breath happy. here.
do you feel free.
what about this theory. the fear of not being enough. and the fear of being ‘too much.’ are exactly the same fear. the fear of being you.
3. Alex Elle
At first glance on Instagram, Alexandra Elle looks to be a beautiful woman with a new baby and a darling family. She is that — but she also shares some of the most thought-provoking words I’ve come across there. An author and storyteller, she often shares close-ups of pieces of handwritten paper that are like little bolts of insight.
In a world where our attention spans seem to shrink by the second, isn’t it nice to feel something like gratitude or perspective in a flash instead of comparison or envy? You can really feel the positive intention behind Alex’s work. She continues to be one of my favorites to come across in my feed.
You can find her @alex_elle.
4. Lang Leav
Lang is an Australian poet born who was in a Thai refugee camp when her parents were fleeing the Khmer Rouge. Her life experience lends a heartbreaking relatability to her words. She writes about love and loss in a way that will ring true and turn things on their head for many of us. She’s got several books of poetry, as well as an active social media presence.
She can be found @langleav.
5. Cleo Wade
I hadn’t heard of or seen Cleo Wade’s face until long after I had seen her words. You may recognize her handwriting — I must’ve seen it all across Pinterest. She’s known as an artist, activist, and poet, and she can often be found gracing the pages of your favorite fashion magazine. Regardless, her words often resonate beautifully — sometimes even when it’s as simple as a screenshot she posted of a text she sent to a friend. (Now, that’s relevant.)
Who else are you reading and/or following? Would love to hear your favorites!