Arm Your Voice: Instagram Poets in New London

Arm Your Voice brings poets, especially teens obsessed with poetry, from Instagram to the stage in monthly performances. 

Many scroll through Instagram to see the latest photos of stunning sunsets, inspirational vacation shots (so you can pretend you can go there, too, one day) and pets—lots of pets. What Instagram users may not realize is that the spot is an increasingly popular publication arena for poets. The New Yorker wrote about the phenomenon in a profile about Reuben Holmes, who goes by the name r.h. sin on Instagram and who has over 600,000 followers.

English teacher Susan Laurencot sees Instagram poets all the time in the monthly Arm Your Voice poetry performance series she coordinates at the Hygienic Art Gallery in New London, Connecticut. They love the kind of poetry aesthetic they see in amateur poets. Poets like @atticuspoetry, @tylerknott and @thealiciacook rack up thousands of likes and shares; they share short, typewritten stanzas on crinkled scraps of paper or old Polaroids(!). Pressed flowers and inky quills are heavily suggested. It’s a world young poets today have no real experience in but one in which they’re completely obsessed.

“These Instagram poets are becoming wildly popular overnight,” says Laurencot, an English teacher at Montville High School. “And you don’t want to ignore the fact that these Instagram poets have given rebirth to something that could have been a dying art.”

#atticuspoetry #atticus #poetry #loveherwild

A post shared by ATTICUS (@atticuspoetry) on

Each Arm Your Voice features student poets, in addition to one “featured poet” and a student poet laureate. Newer poetry writers and performers can win a featured spot by returning to Arm Your Voice over and over to prove themselves worthy of that position.

Typewriter Series #1846 by Tyler Knott Gregson …

A post shared by Tyler Knott Gregson (@tylerknott) on

Laurencot inherited Arm Your Voice from a spoken-word poet who was in residency at Hygienic Art. Once his residency ended, Laurencot, who’d been volunteering with Hygienic, took over. “I said I would do it with the caveat that I could include high school students,” she says. “Because, especially with how things are politically, it’s been my goal to have my students use their voices authentically.”

Many of her students are interested in spoken word and slam poetry, which is how Arm Your Voice was first conceived. When Laurencot began hosting, she also invited narrative and other forms of poetry. Still, her students, inspired by the poets of Instagram and Tumblr, vent their frustrations with politics, social issues and growing up primarily through slam. (Slam for the political, spoken word for the personal, Laurencot says.)

“Slam has become very popular,” she says. “And poetry is a quick write. It’s a perfect blend of what Gen Z is interested in. ‘I don’t want to spend a long time writing a novel, but I’ll work on a poem and I’ll post it on Tumblr and Instagram.’ And there is some benefit to it because it gets kids to look at poetry, and read poetry, and experiment with poetry. You think, Wow, this is a door. It’s gateway poetry.”

Susan Laurencort, director, Arm Your Voice
New London, Connecticut
Janet ReynoldsArm Your Voice: Instagram Poets in New London

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