When I think about poetry, I think about black and white French movies from the 1960s. I think about something that is difficult to grasp; something so pure and beautiful that only very gifted people from another century could write about it correctly. And as a reader, I can only relish those lines, while never having the pretension of comparing my own poems to “real” poetry. There seems to be two different kinds of poetry. There is a poetry that belongs to the past and can never be achieved again. It is a poetry elaborately crafted; it is a world to decipher. We study it in school; we love it, we hate it. We go back to it over and over again or we completely forget about it. Then there is the poetry written after the “real” poetry. It is a manufactured poetry, available to everyone, easy to read, easy to access. Poems being written on Instagram, posted on Pinterest, or on Wattpad. Poems that are easily ignored or looked down upon. Poems too short or too similar to those inspirational quotes we see on our forty-year-old tutors’ mugs.

But what is “modern” poetry? Does it fit into the first or the second category? Generally speaking, modern poetry should not be confused with the “modernist”. “Modern” poetry usually refers to poetry written in the 20th and 21st centuries and its use is very broad. “Modernist poetry” indicates works written between the end of the 19th and the middle of the XXth century in defiance of Victorian and Romantic poetic rules.

Nevertheless, can Ariel by Sylvia Plath be compared to Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and its Flowers? Can we compare Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise to The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace?

In my own experience, poetry was something so precious that it had to be passed on for generations. Poetry was a treasure, a forbidden one. You may ask yourselves, how can poetry be forbidden? Well, it was, for both my mother and my grandmother. And these incredible women in my family taught me to value literature, particularly poetry, as a treasure. My mother was born in Romania and lived under the Communist regime. For both my grandparents, literature could be used either as a propaganda weapon or a form of uprising against the political system. Poetry was the battlefield of the mind. But it was also the escape of the mind. My grandmother cherished modern poetry. She used to be a substitute teacher, badly paid and constantly belittled by her director. But my grandmother never gave up. She didn’t follow the Communist guidelines, but instead taught her pupils about Marin Sorescu, Nichita Stănescu and Mihai Eminescu. Growing up, she used to teach me their poems on the way to nursery. I didn’t understand their meaning, but it felt like a precious gift. I can still remember some lines from ‘Lecţia despre cub’ or ‘Versuri În dulcele stil clasic’, by Nichita Stănescu. So, in my perspective poetry was unreachable, but to be shared, like a magnificent chocolate cake.

I discovered “modern poetry”, in the sense of the poetry on Instagram and Wattpad, when I was in my early teens. I used to write a lot on Wattpad, pretending I was a misunderstood artist. I began reading this kind of poetry, so different from the kind I knew growing up. A poetry that was relatable; sometimes so bad it hurts your eyes, sometimes so good you wonder why it has never been published before. But there was something comforting in this poetry. 

Rupi Kaur’s words are simple but they carry a message of hope. Amanda Lovelace’s poetry books may seem a bit repetitive and childish, but I liked the raw way she wrote about her traumatic past and how she conveyed, through her almost naive style, a glimmer of better days. Such poets are sometimes looked down upon. What is the point in reading Lili Reinhardt’s Swimming Lessons or Lana del Rey’s poems (which to my greatest shame, I never did)? Although Lana del Rey quotes Robert Frost in ‘Venice Bitch’, does it only take elevated references to write a good text? Is being a talented songwriter equal to being a gifted poet? Should we even read poetry written by such stars, if we know very well that their style is not like Walt Whitmann’s or T.S Eliot’s?

I think there is a point.

There is something comforting in reading poems which are not too complicated to grasp. There is something comforting in feeling understood and not having to search for metaphors or hidden meanings.

Furthermore, I don’t understand why people despise Rupi Kaur’s poetry so much. I mean, it is not Shakespeare, but it is sweet and short. And for some people, Rupi Kaur may be the first poet they ever read, or the first time they order a poetry book. If by some chance, they enter a bookshop and buy one of her books, maybe they would take a look at the rest of the poetry corner as well. Modern poetry on Instagram is a stepping stone. I don’t think we should condemn such works, or make fun of them.

Poetry follows the world around us. It mirrors our fears, our dreams and our dilemmas. Maybe Swimming Lessons by Lili Reinhardt was not as metaphorically crafted as ‘Bright Star’ by John Keats, but it expresses the softness of falling in love and the cruelty of heartbreak. Each century carries different poetic styles and maybe our century carries a lighter one, a style not focused on quatrains and sonnets, but focused on feelings, on hope, on the little things we don’t usually pay attention to. In addition to that, actresses or singers who write poetry also encourage their fans to be interested in it too. They use their influence to make a younger generation interested in an art form that some associate with dusty books and boring English classes.

In a way, poetry renews itself. Poetry is like a huge family, from the uptight old maid aunt to the grunge rebel teen. We prefer some family members to others, but all in all, all those differences only make us love them more.