The Instagram account you never knew you needed
Poetry is not a luxury.
No. 88: The Instagram account you never knew you needed
I once heard a poet describe writing a poem as placing a pebble on the altar of poetry. Leave it to a poet, right? It’s one of the most beautiful interpretations of writing I’ve heard. Most pieces aren’t massive granite slabs with seismic implications, and they don’t need to be. A pebble is enough, if made with love and care, to be an offering at the altar.
There’s one altar I visit frequently. It’s on Instagram, of all places.
The account is called Poetry Is Not A Luxury (@poetryisnotaluxury). The name comes from an essay by the poet Audre Lorde on the importance of poetry, a counter to the sentiment that poems are a flowery, extra, and out-of-date mode of expression.
“Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”
— Audre Lorde, The Selected Works of Audre Lorde
And while we’re at it, Lorde’s essay came after another by the novelist Rebecca West, who wrote about the importance of art in an era where industrialism ruled the day.
“Art is not a plaything, but a necessity, and its essence, form, is not a decorative adjustment, but a cup into which life can be poured and lifted to the lips and be tasted.”
— Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
The person who manages Poetry Is Not A Luxury is unknown, anonymous, impossible to find, which only adds to the spiritual quality of the account. The poems have space to breathe. Whoever’s behind the account isn’t posting for attention, social points, or recognition. Their only goal is to share beautiful poetry, something faceless curator achieves multiple times a day.
I was up past my bedtime doing some editing last night when this smooth pebble rolled into my hand.
Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Was this poem a luxury, a cherry on top of a long but rewarding day? No. It was a necessity I didn’t know I needed. It described my day—and, for the most part, my life—with a conciseness and beauty I would have gone without if not for following the Poetry Is Not A Luxury. I felt lifted up after reading it and went to bed nourished, ready to dream.
Then there was this Mary Oliver poem I encountered on a misty day before going on a hike with my pup, Archer.
Beyond proving that poetry is clearly not a luxury, the person behind the Instagram account has a sage-like way of reaching you with just the right poem at just the right time.
Poem by Toi Derricotte
Feeling upset about living in a country laden with guns?
Feeling some cocktail of adoration and anger?
Poem by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Poem by Dorothea Lasky
Poetry Is Not A Luxury has made realize and re-realize that great art feels like it’s speaking only to me, like when I encountered this Danez Smith poem after leaving sunny California and arriving at my new home in Illinois during the middle of February.
Except the poems aren’t speaking only to me. The fallouts and exultations we feel from the shockwaves of our experience aren’t unique. Whenever I’m cured by a poem that pinpoints a feeling I’ve been struggling to grasp, thousands of other people are receiving that same remedy from that same poem.
Poem by June Jordan
And how else are we to learn these lessons? How else are we to get a perspective like Mark Strand’s on our movement through the world?
We aren’t going to get those perspectives. Without poetry, there is no other way. If poetry is a luxury then so is the beating of our heart and the steady flow of oxygen coming in and out of our lungs.
Scrolling through Poetry Is Not A Luxury, it’s all there. Every emotion, mood, and state of being can be found on this innocuous Instagram tucked between the pages of Kim Kardashian and that guy you knew in high school. The person (or persons) behind Poetry Is Not A Luxury has done the hard work of acquiring the stacks, leafing through their pages, and finding the gems within. Like a bartender, they spend their days and nights pouring cup after cup of life. All we have to do is lift them to our lips and taste. ♦
*The Weekly Three now lives at the bottom of Friday newsletters.
HEAR: “Bad Habit” by Steve Lacey
READ: The biggest book publishers are in a legal battle with the U.S. government’s anti-monopoly peeps, revealing a lot about the world of publishing. One publisher said that gloating over a bestseller is like “taking credit for the weather.”
VIEW: The Sorry and The Pity by Marcel Ophuls (if you can find it). I got a copy from my local library.
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