E-Literature’s #1 Hit: Is Instagram Poetry E-literature?

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Electronic Book Review

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Poetry -- Aesthetics, Instagram (Firm), Poetry -- Self-publishing, Poetry and the Internet, Book industry -- Digital humanities


Must poetry be aesthetically difficult to be e-literature? Kathi Inman Berens argues for a new kind of reader response criticism where Instagram algorithms are agentic, and the social reader (one who comments, “likes,” and reposts) is "read" by behavioral targeting algorithms. Digital ad vendors such as Google and Facebook, which owns Instagram, accrue the financial value from such acts of reading. Authors like Rupi Kaur, whose printed books of digital-born Instapoetry have been on the New York Times Bestseller List for more than one year, and the several other Instapoets whose books captured 60% of the top-twenty poetry bestseller slots in 2017, printed their Instapoetry to wring financial value from their social media followings. What does it mean for e-literature, and for book publishers, that Instapoetry makes its money in the walled gardens of the "post-Web”? E-literature is founded in complexity, literary modernism, and avant-garde poetry. This article explains what it means for Instagram Poetry to be “third generation” e-literature operating in massively popular environments, and departing from e-literature’s traditional veneration of hand-coded literary interfaces.

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