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Lang Leav and the Age of 'Instapoets'

Even if you have never heard of Lang Leav, you probably would have read, or seen, her work as you subconsciously scroll down your feed. That occasional, plain page image, with a parchment-like background; a block of verses nestles at the center, once in a while with a very detailed caricature of a girl, or fauna. Perhaps you’ll ignore it, and then curiosity will compel you to read after it appears on your homepage for the fifth time. You might love it, or be incredulous by it; but you can’t deny it, that diary-like page is viral.

When Lang first posted her poetry in 2012, she had not the slightest inkling how far a few words would take her; indeed, she’s not even quite sure herself what moved her to share something so personal in the digital void. But in just a year’s time, and a millions of shares after, Lang is suddenly the most buzzed name in the ‘Instapoets’ movement, an online phenomenon of rapid-sharing poetry. So rapid that she has since published four books of poetry, all of which are top-sellers; and as of this year, she has written her debut novel, Sad Girls, which topped the bestseller charts in its first month.

“It’s really weird about the whole ‘Instapoets’ thing,” admits Lang, as she recalls her quick-rise to social media stardom. Lang actually posted her first poems in Tumblr, where her initial following quickly ballooned, prompting her to get an agent for a publishing deal. She points out, she was a published poet even before she joined Instagram. But somehow, her reputation rode with the rise of other online poets using the platform.

“It’s really a strange thing. I don’t think we should have labels for writers, I think it’s quite restrictive,” she says, who has successfully transitioned to writing novels along with her poetry.

Critics will shake their heads and call the likes of ‘Instapoets’ as mere fad, a trick of internet popularity and not literary merit. Yet, Lang and many other viral poets have effectively debunked the notion of poetry dying in the digital age. In fact, a new wave of writers, like Lang, have actually started with a global fan base before officially publishing in print. Perhaps with social media, gone are the days of a reclusive writer becoming famous only after her death, and subsequent discovery of her hidden work; one could even be an established writer before her name is actually published in print.

“I think now it’s more about the people’s choice, rather than the publishers having all the power and all the say.” Lang weighs in on the writers’ future in a hyper-connected world, where writers and readers can interact more personally than ever before. “It puts the power into the hands of the readers, and the content that they would like to see, instead of [readers] being dictated to what they should be reading. I think it’s a fantastic thing.”


Article originally published in Metro Magazine's September 2017 issue / Photographs by Photography by Kim Wee Ebol