Beth Castle is the managing editor at InHerSight. Based in Durham, she writes about women in the workforce as well as Southern travel, tourism, arts and culture, and food.
It’s no secret that the publishing industry has a history of sexism. Historically, female writers have been known to use male pseudonyms to get their works published, and countless studies have been conducted over the past few years related to the gender gap—both in terms of pay and representation—in the publishing of books, poetry, and academic journals.
Still, while male authors dominate literary canon (and, therefore, high school and college lesson plans), The Guardian reported in January that the popularity of young women poets is on the rise, all thanks to social media.
Dubbed “Instapoets,” these powerful writers have navigated the roadblocks of the industry simply by avoiding them. Instead of taking traditional publishing routes, they’ve posted their work on Instagram, where their following and subsequent book deals have landed them on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
On #WorldPoetryDay, here are five Insta-famous poets who are kicking the gender discimination’s ass—and making bank
1. Rupi Kaur
Perhaps the best-known of the lot, Rupi Kaur started publishing her work on Tumblr before moving to Instagram in 2014. There, she gained exposure because Instagram removed one of her posts, which showed menstrual blood staining her pajamas, from her feed. She responded through poetry, and the popularity of her posts eventually garnered an apology from the social media brand. Today, her books Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers are bestsellers.
2. Cleo Wade
An artist, activist, and poet, Cleo Wade is known for both her signature handwriting and her thoughtful Instagram posts, which, after their popularity grew, earned her work placement in Gucci ads, on Nike sneakers, and on dishes for Fishs Eddy. Her book Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life is filled with handwritten notes and self-affirmation statements, exactly what her Pinterest-loving demographic craves.
3. Warsan Shire
Born in Kenya to Somali parents, award-winning poet Warson Shire grew up in London and has authored a number of collections. Yet beyond her published work and her Instagram fame, it’s her pop culture prowess that has garnered acclaim: Her poems, which explore gender, war, sex, and culture appeared prominently in Beyonce’s Lemonade in 2016.
Nayyirah Waheed’s posts breathe words of self-love into 722,000 (and counting) Instagram feeds. Touching on subjects such as race, art, masculinity, power, and more, her brief poems are notably unpretentious, and since claiming her Insta-fame, she’s published two books, salt. and Nejma.
5. Lang Leav
New Zealand-based Lang Leav first started publishing her collection in Tumblr, where she garnered about 50,000 followers. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand and raised in Australia, the writer’s work explores heartbreak, trust, relationships, passion, and more. Today she has more than half a million followers on Instagram and is the international bestselling author of Love Looks Pretty on You.