~ National Library ~

National Poetry Library Instagram Poetry Film Winners

The world’s first Instagram poetry exhibition ran from Thursday, April 26 to Sunday, July 1, 2018 at the UK’s National Poetry Library. Jane Glennie, whose Being and Being Empty — previously posted to Moving Poems — was one of the fifteen filmpoem winners included in the exhibit, was kind enough to share a program [PDF] with me when I noticed a photo of it in a brief news post about the exhibit on her website. That program is the source of the list of winners below. I have added links to play the films, since it’s a daunting task to search for them on the individual Instagram pages, or among the 1,771 posts (as of 28 July 2018) to #instapoetrylib on https://www.instagram.com, which is where all the entries are archived, and which is still active, if you would like to contribute a film even though the contest has ended; some of the more recent posts to be found on #instapoetrylib are photographs documenting the exhibit rather than new poems.

The winning films were apparently announced via comments/DMs on the individual Instagram posts. At the exhibit, the films were on a screen on a continual loop, while the selected image poems were exhibited on the walls. After having spent some time reviewing the films posted to #instapoetrylib, I believe that the 15 selected poetry films were chosen to represent the breadth and variety of work posted to Instagram — from films of poets reciting their poems, to spoken word performance films, to Instagram as poetry notebook, to found poetry films, animated poetry films, and the kinds of film poems Moving Poems typically celebrates.

Poets were only supposed to submit one entry per person, but many of the poets and the National Poetry Library itself did not appear to have taken this rule seriously. Some of the winners submitted more than one entry, and one winner subverted the Instagram video limits by submitting a longer film in two parts. Of the 1771 entries, there are approximately 114 poetry film postings (of which 44 were submitted by one poster, @b.ar.d).

Here are the winning films, listed in order from the exhibition program. (Readers of this post via feed readers or the email newsletter may have to click through to Moving Poems Magazine to watch the videos.)

NHS Crisis by Thomas ‘GhettoGeek’ Owoo (@ghettogeektv)

This might be the Instagram version he submitted to the contest. This link is to a pinned post on the GhettoGeek twitter page, which includes a link to the complete 4:31 version on YouTube.

A slam or spoken word reading style combines with dynamic graphics and imagery in politically powerful ways. Owoo has produced a number of variant works on this and other subjects on his YouTube channel and a range of social media sites.

A Spring Day by Annabel Wilson (@annabelwilsonart)

This is the post on her Instagram page announcing that her film was selected to show in the exhibition. This link is to the film on her Facebook page.

When she first posted the film to Instagram, she commented: “I wrote a poem last week on one of the first spring-like mornings- it came from that feeling that walking out on a clear morning gives, just as the sun comes up in all of its glory. It’s a sunrise, dawn poem, but also a hope and happiness poem. I have created this simple animation as a different kind of way to share it on World Poetry Day!”

The Art of Narcissism by Akora @parthenocarpy

This is the only video posted to on her Instagram page. This is a link to the performance button on her Instagram page about performing at the National Poetry Library exhibit opening.

For many of the poets posting on Instagram, a film documents the performance of a poem, as does this one.

Being and Being Empty by Jane Glennie (@jane_glennie)

Above is the film on her Instagram page; this is the film on her Vimeo page.

Her description of the film: “How to be a mother … who is this being that I am? Wanting to be half-full with the joy of play, a job well done, and the softness of a bed to sink into at the end. Feeling half-empty with a busy brain that won’t shut down and twitches into awakening too early. Feeling overwhelmed by the chores and feeling rubbish as a result because surely that’s really not important. Tossing and turning and struggling to make a zingy start to each new day.”

A flicker film technique is a visceral representation of both the delight in and the fragmented and distracted attention of motherhood.

Boob Haiku by Fatima Al Rayes (@fatimaspoems)

Here’s the film on her Instagram page. It is the only post on the page.

A film Fatima describes as “a haiku” documents the performance of writing out the poem and making a simple illustration using time compression.

Dice by Annie Rockson (@gyallikeannie)

This is the film on her Instagram page. Here it is on her YouTube page.

A filmed performance of a spoken word poet, “Dice,” “black dots trapped in a white box,” is a trope for the various traps that constrain black lives behind “a smokescreen of racial equality.”

En Silencio by Charles Olsen (@colsenart)

This is the film on Olsen’s Instagram page. Here’s his website.

Charles Olsen translates his poem from Spanish to English in the comments on his Instagram post: “In silence/water trickles down the bark/Leaves shine/like a flight of fish/and the forest/becomes a black sea/Like you/when we are together.” His spare film consists of close shots of the bark, leaves, and forest described in the poem in superimposed titles, but makes no attempt to depict the black sea of the relationship, which he leaves to our imagination.

Esprit Ya Pouvoire by Vid’or Tampa (@PTPlays)

This is the film on her Instagram page.

Another filmed spoken-word performance, this one in honor of International Women’s Day. The comments on the Instagram post provide a translation of the poem to English: And the one who birthed you./And the one who fed you milk./And the one who made you laugh when sadness got into your heart./And the one who cooked porridge for you./And the one who fed you fufu./And the one who carried you on her back/ in her arms./And the one who stood you up each time you fell./And the one who taught you./And the one who wiped away your tears.
And the one who encouraged you;/Gave you advice./And the one who stands up for you./And the one who makes you laugh./And the one who shows you love./And the one who has faith in you./And the one who beats her chest for you./ And the one who sings for you./Bredrin, look left and look right. /She is there and we are all there. /You have grown up in the spirit of power./Recognise us. 

Kaki by Sheena Baharudin (@sheenabaharudin)

The film as it appears on Naharudin’s Instagram page.

Her comments when she posted the Instagram film: “Today is World Poetry Day! Submitting this bilingual piece for the #instapoetrylib call made by the @nationalpoetrylibrary . Inspired by the Zapin, a traditional Malay dance that focuses on the movement of the feet. Fyi, if the words sound familiar, it’s because this is the performed version of my previous #swipeleftpoetry post. Check them out.”

The tight fixed frame that cannot contain the dancing feet work in dialectic with the poem in what is another meditation on the joys and constraints of motherhood.

Public House by Laurie Bolger (@lauriebolger)

The film on Instagram. Here’s the link to Bolger’s website.

“A little poem about pubs” is how the author described this when she posted it, and it does have the casual feel of a cellphone film.

Love Loving by Sanah Ahsan (@psychology_and_poetry)

Her poem on Instagram.

Another film that documents a poet reading her poem. Sanah comments on her Instagram post, “Tonight has been incredible. I performed a piece that explored culture, mental health and identity as part of an upcoming @bbcthree documentary. Such a BLESSING to listen to and share honest stories about #mentalhealth in the #lgbtcommunity. Thank you for having me.”

Somewhere, Nowhere by Mark J. Rigby @filmmaker_markjrigby


These are the links to the film on his Instagram page; the film was submitted in two parts. This is the link to his website.

In his comments on the Instagram post, Rigby notes that he wrote, performed and directed this film, which he describes as a “spoken word video … borne out of volunteer work for acting and drama workshops centred on homeless and vulnerable adults.” However, he does not film himself reciting his poem, and his piece has more of the feel of a music video.

Southwark Love Song by Claire Trevién (@ctrevien)

The film on her Instagram page. This is her poetry website.

In her comments, Trevién describes her piece as a “#poetryfilm of #foundpoetry collected around Southwark, London Bridge, etc.” This in one of a series of her poetryfilms that find a poem in the camera framing of portions of street signs, names of buildings, advertisement art, and more. The sound is whatever the camera mic records in real time. The technique is tantalizing, and certainly permits the intentional roughness of execution.

MAN by Tommy Evans (@tommya_manevans)

This is the film on #instapoetrylib. I believe this is the film on his Instagram page, although I don’t see either #instapoetrylib or @nationalpoetrylibrary in the comments.

Here is a longer version on his YouTube page; both of the Instagram films appear to be excerpts from the longer work. Here’s a post on his Twitter page about his film being exhibited at the National Poetry Library.

A spoken word poet performance that uses the jarring contrasts between medium shots and tight close-ups to suggest the contradictions in the social construction of masculinity.

We be in No Thing by Jason Kofi-Haye (@surf._ace)

This is the poem as it appears on #instapoetrylib. I could not locate this version on his Instagram page, but there are many variants of this work, which is an instance of a year-long project to use Instagram as a kind of artist’s sketch pad. This tendency to post variants, works-in-progress, and rough drafts is a strategy he uses not only on his Instagram page, but also on his other web and social media sites. To see more examples, search Instagram for #WeBeinNoThing.

And finally, one possible winner who got notified, but apparently wasn’t exhibited:

Receipt for our Romance, by Jade Cuttle (@jadecuttle)

That’s the film as it appears at #instapoetrylib.

The poem is represented as a cash register receipt, which the camera simply scrolls down. I find the technique quite clever, albeit probably unrepeatable.

More information on the National Poetry Library exhibit

There have been four posts on the National Poetry Society website: Instagram poetry; Celebrating Instagram Poetry at National Poetry Library; Instagram poetry is here – find out more in our podcast; and A new generation of poets emerges on Instagram. This last post, in which Jessica Atkinson, the National Poetry Library’s Digital Co-ordinator, discusses four of the Instagram poems included in the exhibition and what makes them stand out, is particularly interesting, since it provides some insight into the curation process.

And finally, stay tuned to the blog at littlethoughtspot.co.uk, which promises a review of the exhibition.

For more information about Instagram poets and poetry, here is a brief online bibliography:

Voices of the new ‘Instagram poets’ | Financial Times

The Life of an Instagram Poet | The New Yorker

Why Rupi Kaur and Her Peers Are the Most Popular Poets in the World | New York Times

The Poetry of Instagram | BBC Radio 4

Can Instagram Make Poems Sell Again? | Publishers Weekly

12 Instagram Poets to follow | HuffPost
Is It OK To Make Fun Of Instagram Poets? | Luna Luna Magazine

Instagram poets society: selfie age gives new life and following into poetry | The Guardian

And finally, an interview with Marisa Crane, who says,

I didn’t necessarily mean to cultivate such a large Instagram following. It all happened pretty organically, and I think it helps that I began posting my work right before the boom of Instagram poetry (which is going downhill now, and fast). I can remember sitting on my couch in 2012 reading a poem by Tyler Knott Gregson, which had been typed on a typewriter. He had thousands of likes on a piece that was, in my opinion, pretty basic. Not to say that it wasn’t intriguing or good, but it was short and easily digestible, which made it perfect for people scrolling quickly. I figured I’d take a stab at it, so I began posting some of my shorter poems on my Instagram, which had about 300 followers at the time. I even forgot to put my name under a few of them. For a while, nothing happened, and I didn’t care. I wasn’t posting to become Instagram famous. Then, I think sometime in 2014 some bigger poetry accounts, like Christopher Poindexter, began reposting my work, and it snowballed from there. I don’t particularly enjoy the medium anymore, as I feel that it’s on its way out. Instagram changed their algorithm, and it hurt engagement for a lot of people. I’m basically just riding it out until it becomes null and void.

Read the complete interview on Bekah Steimel’s blog. (Thanks to Dave Bonta for the link.)

There might be something in this: Maybe today everyone wants to be a poet, just like everyone wants to be a filmmaker. But when there are 5,000 submissions to some film festivals for the 60 or 70 spots available for films to be screened, maybe there is also something to be said for being able to post poems or films to social media sites, despite the overwhelming numbers that soon cry out for curation by means other than the viral. I believe Moving Poems is a valuable community in that regard.