12 Female Instagram Poets From India That Are Telling Important Stories

12 Female Instagram Poets From India That Are Telling Important Stories

Contrary to many arguments, the finesse and art of poetry is not lost on millennials, it has evolved with the advent of technology and new applications to a wider, global audience through the use of the internet. In the past few years we’ve witnessed a boom of writers dubbed as ‘Instagram and Facebook poets,’ but poets all the same.

With new platforms and collective now available to showcase writers talents, such as the ever-popular Terribly Tiny Tales, young poets have found an outlet for creative expression as well as a like-minded audience to share their views. In today’s age of fast living where we communicate through GIF’s, emoji’s and LOL’s, chancing upon these social media writers among the overflow of perfect selfies, memes and cute animal pictures is like a breath of fresh, inspirational air. Social media has transformed into a treasure trove of talent and now it’s all just a click away.

These poems are often sidelined as motivational and sentimental statements, but there’s a lot more to it. It takes a certain skill and talent to be able to string together meaningful and impactful words in under 140 characters or less. Following a minimal aesthetic and old-school typography, these new age writers are touching important subjects, their works range from socio-political criticism, romance and unrequited love to current events and the everyday melange of murmurs and musings.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite female poets of the digital age who have perfectly adapted to changing styles and forms, each with their own important stories to tell.

I. Anjum Choudhary @findinglostsouls

Dubai-based Anjum Choudhary juggles between being a forensic scientist by day and, as she says, “let’s say a writer for life. I try to balance my world between these two which is, ugh, pretty tough.”

It was in 2014 after the unfortunate loss of her grandparents, both in the span of nine months as Anjum tells us, that things changed for her. “I was going through a very rough patch, I felt suffocated almost all the time, and just having no one to talk to, really vent to. I started posting my writings on social media, it wasn’t even a poetry account as such back then, I just wrote what I felt, and then posted some more.”

“It was like I was just talking to Instagram and soon people started reading, liking and commenting. The more they did the more I felt like I am not alone, that there are people going through the same thing, or even worse. These were people that I can connect with, and that helped me a lot. Some of my posts helped people and it felt good, like I was doing something to help others in pain, something that I would have appreciated someone would have done for me. The best part was that I too was healing in the process, but I still wasn’t ready to give out my name so I continued posting it under a pseudonym — findinglostsouls. That was my identity — I had no gender, no religion, no region nor name, just words people can connect with, connect with what I wrote and not with who I was or where I came from. In on time 100’s and 1000’s of readers joined in and just like that my account turned into a poetry account from a personal one.”

Poetry is dead?

“I don’t really know where these start from, these notions that poetry is dead or hard to seal and so on. Poetry cannot be dead for the fact that it’s immortal. The words aren’t mine or yours or any other poets if you really see it. The words belong to no one, we just borrow them when we need to, they are for anyone who is hurting, in pain, in love, or in the process of healing. They are there for the ones who want them the most in the given situation, and once the job is done, they move on to the next soul. Poetry just travels from one heart to another giving words and voice to the paint and emotions that would otherwise have no release.

The younger generation… I don’t think they lack interest, it’s just that they have to reach a point where these words would make sense to them in particular, something they can connect with, and that comes with time and maturity. Poetry is something you should feel in your bones, those words should be able to send a chill down your spine, give you goosebumps and let your memories run wild. If not then they will just be a bunch of words hanging around.”

Musings of the past & present

Anjum cites Fitzgerald, Bukowski and Ahmed Faraz as her favourite poets of the previous generation, admiration that continues till today along with being fan of modern contemporaries like Warsan Shire, Lang Leav, Rupi Kaur, Pavana and Indra. “Every writer is my favourite just for the fact that they write because I know what It takes to put all that into words,” she says.

Everything inspires me, trust me when I say that. You could be having a conversation with me and in my head I’d be making poetry out of it. I believe people are poetry in themselves, we just need the right words to frame them. Good feedback which I am so grateful for to all my readers motivates me, it just makes me want to give my best, because as a writer, I tell you, I often drown in self loathing and questioning my ability, like I’d write something and go woah! But then the next moment I hate it. It’s hard to explain. There are days I doubt myself, and then I get into the writer’s block, I can’t think I can’t write, I can’t do anything. In fact a 100 times a month I feel I should just stop, that I am not good enough and then just one positive comment, good feedback, an email saying what I recently posted changed their life, affected them in a certain way or they just could connect with my words or my work voiced their feelings, and I am back with a bang. So these keep me going, and I tell myself — Hell! Don’t you dare quit!”

II. Gaya Lobo Gajiwala @gaya_lobogajiwala

“I’m an exotic dancer. Just kidding. I used to lie and make up unbelievable professions for the longest time, when people asked me what I did, but I think I’ve finally grown into what I do,” says Gaya Lobo Gajiwala. Considering the amount of grief she gave teachers growing up, she says it’s probably karma that she is now herself a High School English teacher. Although teaching wasn’t exactly part of the game plan, after five years at it, she says there’s nothing else she could imagine herself doing.

Poetry has been a part of Gaya’s life since she was a kid, starting off with little rhymes when she was just barely out of kindergarten. It’s no surprise that today she’s got us on her long lists of admires. While most of us were scraping knees on pavements and experimenting with eating mud (guilty!), as Gaya got older she got strict with herself about rhythm and metre. “I’ve always loved the sound of words, the way they roll of your tongue, and I’d collect them the way some people collect stamps,” she says. Growing up reading some of our favourites here at Homegrown, Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein, and other children’s poets, she loved the idea that you could tell stories with poems.

Her poetry transformed into angst-ridden verses in her teen years, a place, she says, to explore hopes and fears that she couldn’t voice aloud. Not much for sharing her work, it was only in college where she was studying literature that she met other talented writers who worked together and found their own unique voices. “I began to upload my work on social media because one of those friends egged me on. He had been reading my work for years, and felt it was time I took the plunge and let other people read it, too. Putting up my first poem on Instagram was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I gave myself a target — one poem a day and it had to fit on a phone screen. Every word on the page needed to be accounted for, I call it pocket poetry. The response was overwhelming; strangers would message me, telling me how they identified with my words. I guess the length and simplicity made it accessible, and I now find it easier to let go of my work instead of guarding it preciously. As an introverted person I’ve always felt a sense of isolation from the rest of the world. My poetry has brought me in contact with so many people who have written in to say that they have felt the same way, asking me how I knew to put it into words, that I now feel a sense of belonging that in a way that I haven’t before before. I also explore notions of self, gender, and sexuality in a way I hope both resonates and sparks debate.”

Poetry is dead?

“Rubbish. Poetry isn’t dead, it’s just evolved so that you don’t recognise it by archaic definitions anymore. Sure, nobody writes sonnets in iambic pentameter as often as they used to, but just have a look at the spoken word poetry slams on Youtube. When I play a piece for my students, there’s always a handful of them who have heard it already. These are fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds. And they’re keeping up with slam poets. How can you say poetry is dead? What do you think rap is?

If you need further convincing, I recommend you watch Tim Minchin’s animated beat poem, Storm.”

Musings of the past & present

A lover of T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas, Simon Armitage is who Gaya says is her absolute favourite from the present generation of poets. “I also love Sujata Bhatt and Fleur Adcock, and really enjoy how Sophie Hannah writes relevantly while maintaining a strict rhyme and metre. My favourite slam poets are Sarah Kay, Denice Frohman and Shane Koyczan.”

Narrowing down some of her influences and inspirations wasn’t something she was sure she could accurately narrow down, she says, “I love playing with rhythm and cadence and double entendres, so in a way, beat poetry and jazz definitely influence my style, particularly with longer pieces. I think, looking back at my work, you can sort of spot the influence of imagism as well. I’ve occasionally been told that my poetry is very millennial in its scope and perspective – I know I tend to get a bit rant-y sometimes. But then, I’ve also had aunties come up to to me and say, ‘You know, I loved that poem of yours, it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to say,’ so who knows, really?​”

III. Harnidh Kaur @harnidhk

Currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Harnidh Kaur describes herself as a “part-time poet, full-time student, and overarching feminist.” As she tells us, writing and uploading her work to the internet is something she always indulged in, starting with Facebook Notes, a blog that she still runs, and now Instagram “because of its simplicity, and its incredible engagement potential.” Harnidh’s work covers a wide range of subjects including the 1984 Sikh massacre, feminist empowerment, and her poem ‘Pantheon,’ which inspired artist Priyanka Paul’s amazing ‘Goddesses’ series, led to an array of lewd comments and hate mail on social media.

Poetry is dead?

“Poetry is now more alive than ever. We’re reimagining what poetry is. We’re writing because we can. We’re making poetry sexy again. If anything, we’re slowing nursing it back to health.”

Musings of the past & present

While Harnidh herself is often cited as a favourite by others, her list of go-to’s include the incredible Margaret Atwood, Warsan Shire, Mihir Vatsa, Akhil Katyal, Andrea Gibson, Brenna Twohy — “I could go on!” she says.

And what drives a young poet like her? “My core inspiration is policy. I write about things that make me think, because my personal is very, very political. The feminist movement, the third wave, especially, really inspires me. So does India, I guess. I wouldn’t be half the poet I am if it wasn’t for India.”

IV. Isha Yadav @ishalogue

An Assistant Professor in the English department at Delhi University, 25-year-old Isha Yadav writes and curates tale, “micro-fiction,” for Terribly Tiny Tales, is an artist and volunteer for The Fearless Collective, a slam poet and even instructed beginners yoga for the community. “I’m a street artist, a feminist, a 2-AM whacko. I love flowers in my hair and all things coconuts,” she muses.

“I can’t map the day I got drawn to poetry. I began as an engineering aspirant and gave it up to study Humanities and it was much later I realised that poetry was inside me all this while. I used to write jingles for my classmate about teachers,” she tells us. “ Of Course, I began as a super complexed person, I kept my words closeted. When I began reading online, very natural sense of comparison came over and it felt, ‘my words are equally good,’ and I began sharing. “

Till today, she tells us that she gets anxious about the response of readers when she taps the upload button. “For 10 minutes straight I shiver, edit, rethink my purpose, at least till it hits the first ‘like.’ I’m not ashamed anymore.”

Poetry is dead?

“Poetry has been called back home from the dead. And it’s coming back at a steady speed, I’m very glad. I think the sense changed, practical, analogical and didactic requirement for literature changed the generations. My grandma remembers the poems she has read but my mother was never find of any.

Micro fiction is bringing poetry back. I always thought the poetry was more patriotic, more of a thinker’s idea, a romantic’s version. It’s far away from logics, from protagonists, conflicts, desire, climax or any politics of story telling. Poetry is pure and innocent. Poetry doesn’t have principles, it has mischief.

One of the reasons could be that our academics have complicated the poem with deconstruction and criticism. I think, on a certain level, it’s not supposed to be studied. It’s like a song. You can tell them to hear one, pester them till they do so, but then your job’s over. That’s it. It should have been ‘to each it’s own.’

Being more career/ advantage savvy, the field of writing saw an increasing demand for writers could could write plays, essays, documentaries, scripts or full length novels or anthologies. Poetry was neglected till the the social evenings, Rekhta’s and poetry slams came into picture. And this is where we are now. Half of the talented pool of story writers don’t even know that it’s okay if your poem doesn’t rhyme.”

Musings of the past & present

“Today: Rupi Kaur, Tyler Knott Gregson, Lang Leav, R.M. Drake, Harnidh Kaur. Past: T.S Eliot, Maya Angelou, Kamala Das, Rumi, Gulzar, Agha Shahid Ali, Shiv Kumar Batalvi,” Isha recalls as her list of preferred poetry masters.

“An undying need and urge to come across little things of joy and beauty have been a form of inspiration today and always. I began trusting my own thought process and my own eye for looking for details and the world in little everyday nothing things.” She taps into her own experiences with heartbreak, prolonging emotional distresses and issues growing up in a typical patriarchal household as a source and influence for the romantic, anxious and feminist — “all separately” — tone of her body of work. “I work on intense human emotion. I admit it’s more of experiences than inspirations,” she adds.

V. Karuna Ezara Parikh @karunaezara

Karuna Ezara Parikh is a jack of all trades it seems, right from hosting travel shows for TV, helping run a company called The Burlap People, modelling and writing journalistic pieces, but for her, “my favourite identity is one I didn’t give myself but was graciously bestowed by people around me, and is simply, being a poet,” she shares.

As far back as she can recall, she would always write down her thoughts, often in verse format, crediting her mother for being playing a key role in bringing her to poetry. As that mixed with her love for music and words, she was automatically drawn to the rhythm that invisibly flows to language.

Poetry is dead?

“I actually think poetry is more alive than ever, today. I credit people’s short attention spans for this! No one seems to have time for a whole book, but four to ten lines on Instagram - they can handle it. So I think poetry is seeing a resurgence of sorts,” says Karuna. The underlying belief that seems to have come up through our research, interactions and own experiences is that platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have tapped into the need for quick consumption that exists today as we race through the today’s world of fast one-finger-scrolling, while recognising that although society may have transformed, we all still connect, and feel the need to, on an emotional level in feelings of alienation, isolation and even apathy, till a certain extent, that many have stated plagues today’s millenials.

Musings of the past & present

“I’m a big fan of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Yeats, Donne, the Brownings. Later on, Allen Ginsberg, and of the current, more ‘social media friendly’ poets my favourite are Beau Taplin and Nayyirah Waheed,” says Karuna.

When it came to understanding poetry, Karuna shares that her creativity was more stirred by the lyrics and music of people such as Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen — “Ani Di Franco for certain! I’m not sure I can write like them, but they certainly inspired me to write.”

VI. Khadija Nusrat Islam @wordsandkhadija

“I am a 19-year-old introverted human that finds solace in this beautiful thing called poetry. I’ve been writing from a very tender age, say 10,” shares Khadija who is currently pursuing a Bachelors degree while working part-time in a firm.

Poetry for her is sophisticated beauty, short and precise while having the immense power to deliver a message is what she will always love about it. “It took me three full years to start showing my work to an audience. It was a lot of self debate at first. I reckon it is almost a year now from when I first started uploading my work. That would answer the ‘when,’ but as to why I started uploading them is a question I continue to ask myself till date,” she shares.

Poetry is dead?

“Poetry could never be dead, it may be enjoyed in lesser number, yes, but that is far from being dead.

The younger generation? I feel sort of old now answering that, but I personally feel people lack the enthusiasm to understand below the surface, and this is what poetry is, understanding what is not obvious.”

Musings of the past & present

“Of today’s generation? I believe Pragnesh Gajjar, he is a friend and one of the only poet that has me wondering. Poets of the past? I have few in my list — Charles Bukowski, Kahlil Gibran, Umar Ibn Al Farid, Edgar Allan Poe, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson and so on.”

VII. Mehek Malhotra @giggling_monkey

“I’m a 20-year-old with pink hair. I am studying at NIFT Mumbai, I create art using words, colours and experiences,” says Mehek Malhotra. “I would like to believe I’m a visual artist and poetry is a huge part of my art. I use it as a medium to create a space where you can relate to words the way you want to.Readers connect to even the most personal of poems.

Social media is the new portfolio. Now you can’t just create art and save canvases in your room, you need to put it out there, and when you do that you connect to an audience you never knew existed.”

Poetry is dead?

“No, poetry is not dead, instead I feel people are using poetry to open up emotions they generally wouldn’t talk about. The complex words are fading away and even more complex emotions are being expressed through easier words and language.”

Musings of the past & present

“A few of my closest friends are poets and I love their words — Harnidh Kaur, Shamir Reuben, Hussain Haidry, Rabia Kapoor. My favourite poem forever will be the mermaid by W.B. Yeats.”

“A lot of it is inspired by people, little details you miss at the first glance and experiences you would write about in your personal diary,” she comments about her work. Through vivid collages, kaleidoscopic colours and minimal words, Mehek’s work is a breath of beautifully bizarre fresh air.

VIII. Naina Kataria @_theshrinkingviolet

A scriptwriter at TVF Delhi, It was during her second year at Jaypee Institute of Information Technology that Naina Kataria realised she wanted to write. After graduated with a degree in engineering in 2015 she switched streams — “I also have a sacred love for food and lame puns,” she adds.

“I always felt that I had too much write about, too many things to speak about, but I found myself unable to speak. I saw a few pieces of spoken word poetry on YouTube and decided to give poetry a try, and when I did start writing poems, it felt like poetry was a home I had always belonged in,” she shares. The first piece she ever performed was earlier this year in January, at a time when, she shares, she was suffering from a three-month long phase of social anxiety. She had to seriously push herself onto that stage the first time, but she regrets nothing. “It was worth it. Since then itself I started uploading my work to social media,” she comments. “I huge push to my confidence was my poem going viral. More than anything else, poetry became my way of letting my thoughts out to the world and reaching out to more people who felt the same way as I did.”

Poetry is dead?

“Yes, the notion has been like that, but I do not think that is true anymore. Poets had always been there, it is only the spoken word poetry genre that is new and has tremendously contributed to more and more people wishing to be associated with poetry. There has been a surge of upcoming poets in the past 1-2 years, and I like to believe that this trend is here to stay.

I believe that this generation of poets doesn’t really read much, the whole. Most of them seem to use this platform to vent what they feel without improving at their craft. I think they should explore and study more about it, to open themselves up to new perspectives. I also feel that Hindi and Urdu poetry, or even literature on the whole, is hugely unexplored.”

Musings of the past & present

Phil Kaye — “favourite poem: Repitition, Sabrina Benaim, Richard Siken and Mark Strand are just some of the today’s poets that Naina calls her favourites, and if there were three poets from history she could meet, they would definitely be Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski and T.S. Eliot.

“Alok Nath Menon from DarkMatter poetry has been the biggest inspiration to me when it comes to ideas. I have seen him perform once and I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes, and the whole time I was thinking ‘I wish I could make someone cry like that!.’ Other than this, Sarah Kay inspires me to be a better performer, since she is once of those few artists who maintain their composure while performing (I don’t know how she does that),” says Naina. “Speaking of the thoughts that I portray in my work, I don’t think anybody inspired me to do so. I was always someone who questioned and observed everything.”

IX. Siya Kumar @tertius.oculus.words

Bombay girl Siya Kumar was always a bookworm, fascinated with writers and poets for as long as she can remember. “I’m working on getting my work published which is an extremely tedious process and needless to say requires massive amounts of time and patience, but that is ultimately my end goal, to be a published writer. It took me a while to accept that completely and the fear that comes with that realisation is extremely daunting,” she shares.

“So I’ve always known subconsciously that I want to be a writer. Around 5 years ago I went to New York for a couple of months to do this creative writing course to see if I have it in me, after years of denial, around two years ago I was having a conversation with a friend and I found myself zoning out completely and he said this specific word and that’s all I could hear. Cliched as it sounds, it was like I was possessed and I needed to work around that word to make something out of it. I got onto my iphone ‘notes’ and began writing, after a lot of editing and convincing myself, I was like huh, this isn’t too shabby and decided to upload it onto instagram. Little did I know, the responses I received were extremely positive, people asking me where I got this from and who it’s written by. So that definitely encouraged me to keep posting.”

Poetry is dead?

“Honestly, to some extent I think people feel poetry is dead because, the younger generation doesn’t quite understand what poetry is. Sure, if we’re talking technicality and origin, it would pretty much seem like poetry is dead. But putting all of that structure aside, poetry is literally in everything. In a conversation, in a song, in a film. It just takes one line, to make you step out of yourself, stop, and take a moment to fully comprehend what you’re feeling. I feel like that’s the reason why people love quotes, It is basically poetry condensed,” says Siya.

“I’m not a 100 percent sure if younger generations lack an interest in poetry or not, but if that is the case I think its because people don’t want to give themselves, give their time to something completely. People would rather watch a film than read, because a film is highlighting everything for you in a more obvious manner than a book or poem would. I read this article that said, ‘poetry is dead because it isn’t loud enough, not anymore, because it’s lost its sense of being radical,’ but everything evolves, I think if we change the way we see poetry, that statement wouldn’t be held true.”

Musings of the past & present

Obsessed with the Beat generation, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs have always called out to her in a strong way, followed by Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Dylan Thomas, with contemporaries like Warsan Shire, Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur topping her list of admired contemporaries.

“The Beat Movement definitely plays a massive part in the way I think, the way I write, as it is free-form and doesn’t put much emphasis on structure and rhyme. Charles Bukowski also influences me greatly as his work is so reckless and unapologetically raw, that when you read it, his words are literally seared into you,” she shares.”

Special Mention

It’s hard to think about young female writers of today without the names of Rupi Kaur, Nikita Gill and Lisa Ray coming to mind. Unfortunately, we were unable to speak with them, but no list would be complete without celebrating their work, each unique and poignant in their own esteem, driven with a strong voice that has risen above the static and noise that often reigns wild across social media platforms. We’ve selected below some of our favourites from their exemplary body of writing.

X. Lisa Rani Ray @protestpoet

Popularly known for her modelling career and outstanding performances in films such as Water directed by Deepa Mehta, we were as surprised as you may be right now when we stumbled upon her sadly lesser known talent, poetry. Touching upon an array of subjects, from body image to fighting patriarchy and motivational quotes, her verses are positively profound and a delight to have on your feed.

XI. Nikita Gill @nikita_gill

Having reportedly received 137 rejection letters from traditional publishers, London-based poet and visual artist Nikita Gill made a name for herself across multiple social media platforms with numerous works having gone viral over time. Through mesmerising visuals, typography and beautiful aphorisms, Nikita’s work concisely captures fantasy and reality, empowerment and suffering, all in a limited square post.

XII. Rupi Kaur @rupikaur

Author, poet, artist, performer—Rupi Kaur has become a household name in the world of feminist art with seminal works having been shared and re-shared across platforms and international borders. After her ‘controversial’ photograph was taken down from her Instagram account, her poetic voice only grew stronger and louder, uniting women and artists through her bold and brilliant work.