Jamey Nell: On the State of Poetry and Instant Gratification

I am not known by many—and I am not known for much of anything—in this fast-paced and exhibition-laced lifestyle that has swept across our wilting world in the past decade. I do not compete in the ‘Multinational Olympic Quest for Fame’, and I believe that too many unworthy individuals view themselves as far too worthy, via the attention they've received through social media outlets. Especially in the world of poetry; a foul monster in the form of ‘instant gratification’ has taken hold, with Instagram being the most prolific offending platform for the degradation of a once-respectable art. As a crucial component in the downfall of critical thinking, exploration of emotions, social connection, and the imaginative manipulation of words is slowly degrading the foundation of the art forms. Instagram has been a hyper-stimulant for the misunderstanding of what poetry truly means, and for the delusion that a written piece need only to express some type of emotion to be considered art. It is not unfounded to fear that future generations will never be exposed to ‘real’ poetry that has been written with integrity and obsessive self-criticism, if we are to continue on this way.  

I find it perfectly acceptable to assume that our predecessors in this field would be saddened, dismayed, ashamed, and angry at the state of their beloved art, had they a chance to view what it has become; the argument that “times have changed, and so has writing,” only holds a slight of truth. As years go by and technology continues to grow at an ever-quickening pace, it becomes easier and easier to blame shallowness on the state of social connectedness—or lack thereof—in our society. The problem with this argument is that poetry is not based upon access to information or access to people, but upon access to one's ability to question, observe, describe, compare, dream, and imagine, et cetera. Those who continually write one to three lines—or traditionally, a stanza—solely on the subject of heartbreak, have completely missed the point of being given the gift of words. I would even venture to say that many of the people who commit this offence, are simply capitalizing on the popularity of the #poetrycommunity on Instagram, and do not innately possess said gift of words at all.  

With that being said, it is very possible to write a short poem that expresses a tantalizing thought or concept, thus, initiating within the reader, the ability to think and to delve into their own soul. However, the issue arises when these pieces are the foundation of your body of work. Issue with this type of writing also occur when these small blurbs do not invoke any thought process further than the actual words that are written If you aren't implying more than the actual words on the page, or you are not touching upon an important subject with imagery that is beyond the subject itself, then you are not writing poetry, but, instead, are writing simple, unarticulated thoughts. An even larger issue, and the most infuriating of all, is the voracity with which the general public consumes this drivel. It has become a favorable fallback when one is feeling uninspired; to write about the beauty or strength of women, especially using ‘she’ poetry—a widespread joke among true poets in the community. The ‘she’ figure is a public favorite because everyone wishes to become her  i.e. her flaws are always beautiful. Sadly, in real-life, flaws are sometimes ugly, and everything about ‘her’ can be twisted into the hopeful uprising of a wayward heart. ‘She’ is very much like a lost, but endearing puppy, and we love to love her for it. But where is the uprising against current global affairs? The state of our dying Earth? Race relations in America? Drug addiction? Childhood trauma and abuse? And yes, heartbreak, or true love?

Very few, it seems, are able to touch upon any of the aforementioned subjects, because they require thought and aesthetic competence, and not just ‘feeling’. They require looking outside of oneself, and they challenge the writer to make everyday things beautiful, and interesting, and relatable, not simply benign butterflies in the stomachs of adolescents. These subjects ask the author to give a voice of importance to the mundane, and to look beyond the one thing that ties us all together as humans and that lends itself so fluently to written word—and that is love. In all of this rambling—likewise with criticism, loathing, harshness—I find pebbles in the creases of my own shoes from this road that I began walking one year ago. I find remnants of the childlike wonderments I used to pen down so fervidly at the same time that the trees were decorating my path with their own fears, and stories, and lessons, and I remember that it is this that I bow to. It is peace, and honesty, and acceptance that guides me, and I am forced to let my grievances go.  

Poetry has been beaten to a bloody pulp through the ever-growing avenues of easy internet access that we now possess. I was once a scrabbling stranger, too, but no longer.  I aspire to devote my words the maturity they deserve, and I like to think that maturity has lent itself to me, as a person. Despite the uncertain future of poetry in this generation and the ones that follow, I dance with the ghost of what once was, and I keep my pebbles as a reminder of what can grow.

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For something a little more light-hearted, and a lot less critical, follow me on Instagram at @jameynell.poetry. I promise, I'm much friendlier and more laid-back than this rant would lead one to believe.  Some might even venture to call me funny. Shoutout, as well, to my favorite poets, @workinprogess13, @alan_melancholic, and @owen_lindley, show them some support, if you so politely please!

Love to you all - and go make your dreams come true.

❤ Jamey Nell


Jamey is a mother, first and foremost, who enjoys nothing more than spending quality time playing Checkers and Battleship with her son, while hiking together on weekends. During weekdays, she is a preschool teacher at a transitional housing facility, working with homeless and at-risk children and families to forge a strong foundation on which they can build a brighter future. This essay is Jamey's first literary venture outside of her Instagram profile, and she plans to develop her skills as time goes on, with the dream of publishing a collection of poetry in the future. You can visit her Instagram page to view her content at @jameynell.poetry.