Down with Tumblr Writing!

If you use any social media whatsoever, you will have probably seen quotes by people which are invariably about love, loss, and existential angst. It is optional for these poems to be in all lower case, or to sometimes include short story fragments.

They are interesting; social media offers opportunities for disseminating work like no other (even when censored) and they can potentially do really cool things with images.

I just wish that most of them weren't so crap.

If you have bought and loved books by, say, Emery Allen or Lang Leav, you're probably furious right now. How could I, a talentless little wretch with hardly the reach of either of these authors, dare to criticise them?

The answer is simple: I'm in the wrong demographic.

I didn't really care that much about this genre of writing - I saw it sometimes on my tumblr dashboard and it didn't particularly appeal to me. I found it far too cloying and twee for my taste.

A while ago my best friend lent me Soft Human by Emery Allen. I try to be reasonably open-minded about literature, but I couldn't get any kind of emotional connection with the writing, no matter how hard I tried.

Superficially, I think this might be to do with the style of tumblr writing. It's a particular kind of free verse made by writing sentences and putting line breaks in strategic places, so it often doesn't scan as a poem should or finishes oddly. The "short story" sections may or may not have paragraphs or full stops, both of which can present difficulties in actually trying to read the goddamn things.

The attentive reader will point out that works without paragraphs, full stops, or either can be not just enjoyable literature but great literature - from The Autumn of the Patriarch, whose final chapter is a single sentence, to The Loser, written in a single unbroken paragraph, to Ulysses with its stream-of-consciousness style and intricate structure. In fact, I really love the former two books. So why doesn't it work in tumblr writing?

This is where my offhand comment about being in the wrong demographic starts to take on more significance. I have already mentioned the kind of subjects usually addressed in tumblr writing: love, loss and trauma - things that everyone's experienced.

Here's the important thing: different people experience these things in different ways at different times. Tumblr writing is aimed at people currently experiencing trauma. I am writing as a person who has experienced trauma and survived.

So I don't particularly need someone else's words to make me feel whole, because I don't believe I was ever truly inchoate in the first place (although it seemed it at the time). I don't necessarily need reassurance that things will be okay, because I've experienced this first-hand. I don't need bullshit drivel about almost loves or forever loves or being his first choice because I know something of how adult relationships, with their quirks and flaws, somehow manage to work some of the time.

In other words, I've outgrown it - not that I would have chosen it to help me along my way in the first place, for the most part.

Screw scrabbling for just the right words. Make your own damn words. Make your own art. Make your own music. Read poetry that is beautiful even if it is not edifying. Sure, maybe you won't be the next Neruda, but you'll learn more from making things that are your own than you ever could anywhere else.

(Since we're on the subject of poetry, it's actually pretty difficult for poets to get any recognition, especially those who want to make a living solely off writing - no, seriously, doing that is really hard. So in the name of giving a talented man some recognition for his work, go check out Mercer's Poems over here.)


  1. "make your own damn words"...well said! I had never thought of it that way. Thank you for giving me a new perspective today.


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