Cringey poetry is good for the mind and soul

Illustration by Myah Anglin | The Signal

Do you remember a time when you could write without a second thought? Your goal wasn’t to follow a style of formatting, get a grade on your perceived proficiency or abide by socially acceptable ideas. You wrote from the heart, no matter how much reading your thoughts later would make your skin crawl. 

As an art form, poetry has become the butt of jokes in recent years, often called “cringeworthy” for its content. The phrase “I’m 14 and this is deep” is believed to have originated from criticizing poetry shared on social networks like Facebook and Instagram. 

The once-popular poetry collection, “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur, once acclaimed as a “must-have poetry collection about healing and hope,” has now fallen into heavy criticism for its simplicity. Critics condescendingly refer to Kaur’s poetic style as “Instagram poetry,” something created only to garner social media attention rather than express an idea tactfully or with substance. 

Similarly, many people hate spoken word poetry and competitive slam poetry because of their emphatic delivery and cringeworthy “deep” messages. Andrew Paul Wood writes in his article for New Zealand publication The Spinoff  that “[n]oble social protest is lost beneath all the posturing [self-aggrandizement], faux patois and, ironically, ‘keeping it real.’” 

We must take a step back from heavily judging these poetic works to understand why they exist at all. Poetry is an art form believed to predate written language, dating to at least 2300 B.C. when Sumerian poet Enheduanna wrote the Sumerian Temple Hymns. 

People have used poetry to document religious practices, oral histories, laws and genealogical records, giving it an important place in our historical understanding of past and present cultures. 

Writing and performing poetry is an outlet that not many people take advantage of for fear of judgment. While not all poetry will be considered a masterpiece, and not every poet is destined to be one of the greats, we should recognize that poetry is a form of expression worthy of appreciation.

By documenting history, expressing emotion and sharing one’s worldview through poetry, people can better understand one another and have an outlet for their ideas. While you may find a work cliche, clumsy or cringey, it might resonate with someone who has had a different experience from you.  

It should not matter if others view a work of poetry as cringey or bad because it is a pure creative expression of someone’s emotions. Finding enjoyment in Instagram poetry or dramatic slam poetry isn’t a reflection of your taste or sophistication, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed that others don’t enjoy it in the same way as you. 

Take joy in appreciating the artful simplicities of Instagram poetry. Listen to and resonate with spoken word poetry unashamedly. Write from your heart without considering what scrutiny you may face from your peers. Understand that your work will not be loved by everyone, as you may not love every piece of art you come across. 

“For me,” said Harry Baker in his TedxExeter talk Grand Slam Poetry Champion “Poetry has been the ultimate way of ideas without frontiers…I could create these worlds where I could talk about my experiences and dreams and beliefs”. 

Poetry gives people a powerful outlet for expression, even if the poems they write aren’t good. “Everybody writes terrible poems” states Jake Freidman, Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing Marketing and Outreach Specialist in an interview for The State Press.“I think the only difference between someone who writes a good poem and someone who writes a bad poem is that the person who writes a good poem just kept writing.”

Cringey poetry is good for the mind and soul, and it’s time we give it the love that it deserves.