Image Credit: Yorpoetica, 2019
Here at York, we are no strangers to an anonymous submission page. Whether we’re raising our eyebrows at the fabricated tales from nights out gone by on Yorfess or cringing at confessions of love ranging from the slightly creepy to the all-out gag-worthy on Yorkrush, York students using online submission pages to say things they’d never say in public is a tale as old as time.
Keeping up to date with what’s being said on these pages is much like watching Love Island or reading the BBC News app, there are of course more valuable ways to spend your time and more reliable sources to gain information from, but at some point or another during your day someone will ask you if you’ve seen something from one of these places and it’s just easier to be able to say yes.
Yet what is too often overlooked at York, is another submission page living over on Instagram; Yorfess’s laidback, artsy cousin @Yorpoetica.
The Yorpoetica Instagram page publishes poetry submissions from students at the University of York and is run by third year English and Related Literature student Chloe D’Arcy. The project grew out of a second-year group project, in which students were asked to create a platform that would open up conversation about the publishing industry.
Starting as a way to explore how quickly an online publishing platform could gain followers and build an online presence, the project has since grown beyond its original purpose to live on as a space for students to share their poetry, with a specific focus on work that engages with contemporary mental health issues.
With insta-poetry already existing as a well-established form, to run Yorpoetica on the site felt like a natural choice as it allows for a greater focus on the aesthetics of the page as well as the poems themselves. Instagram does, however, have its limitations, meaning that the project prefers submissions of a shorter length so that they may fit into one photo although longer work is also considered. The vast majority of work sent in is published on the page, although on occasion some slight alterations may be asked to be made first.
Not all submissions are completely anonymous, with some just including the author’s initials and others having the author tagged in the post. The choice in regard to anonymity is entirely down to the individual and gives students the freedom to explore their creativity without the potential worry of wondering ‘what will people think?’
Yorpoetica can therefore serve simultaneously as a place for those more confident in their poetry to promote their work but also a place for those who may never have written poetry before or who keep poetry as something extremely personal to share their work confidently.
The poetry on Yorpoetica doesn’t require in depth analysis, unless of course you’d like to look at it that way. Rather, the page recognises that poetry is personal and intimate and something that readers may want to dip in and out of, making having a poem pop up on your Instagram feed every so often an ideal level of commitment for those new to the media.
Chloe also spoke of how those new to poetry can begin to explore it saying ‘start with what you know’. If you listen to hip hop for example, start there, by taking the time to really listen to the lyrics of your favourite songs. “See the skill some artists have poured into their work like Aesop Rock’s ‘Water Tower’ lyrics for example”.
Like reading poetry, the process of writing poetry is also deeply personal but something that anyone can have a go at. Sitting down to write something, it doesn’t need to matter if it makes sense or looks nice. Chloe suggests also that often the best times to write are when you are feeling the most ‘emotionally volatile’ as poetry can give the opportunity to channel those emotions.
Yorpoetica has plans to move beyond the virtual sometime in the uncertain future. Working with the university’s Thin Ice Press to print and then exhibit some poetry physically, in order to both raise further awareness of mental health amongst students and to showcase the writing talent at the University.
While I’m thankful for pages such as Yorfess, giving us all something to talk about other than the weather, and Yorkrush, keeping us humble as we check again to see if that person we caught eyes with briefly in the library has confessed their undying love yet, I am greatly comforted that on the other end of the spectrum we have Yorpoetica. Tucked away over on Instagram, it is a haven for creativity both named and anonymous, giving students a space to share something they’re proud of rather than something they’re too embarrassed to say in person.