Poetry In The Social Media Age: Interview With Nikita Gill

Remy Millar

Nikita Gill’s poetry and her Instagram account are a match made in heaven. Through charming graphics and limited space, Nikita frames sublimely concise and aphoristic poems into a visually pleasing pause for your everyday scroll. Her words and tone, direct and powerful, are above all emotionally accessible; therefore, they harmonize perfectly with the social media medium, created with accessibility in mind. We’ve asked Nikita about her unique choice of medium, her influences, and what she draws on for inspiration.

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was 12. It began as an assignment for a creative writing session during English class, and a very encouraging and kind English teacher told me never to stop. I never have.

Who are your favourite poets?

Wow, that is a big question because I have a lot of favourites. I really enjoy the work of Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson and Pablo Neruda. Amongst the contemporary poets, I would definitely say Lang Leav, Sierra DeMulder, Trista Mateer and Beau Taplin are amazing. I have a huge poetry collection that I adore getting lost in, and I cherish old second-hand books. The more the book has been read and loved, the better.

My all-time favourite poem by far is by Robert Frost. The poem is called ‘The Road Not Taken’ and ends with lines that still give me the chills.
‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.’

Who or what influences you?

My greatest influence is empathy and my greatest teacher is experience. And for a sensitive person who wears her heart on her sleeve, empathy for other people’s suffering has always made me want to help them in any way I can. And experience from my own suffering as well as theirs has taught me how to write about it.

What are the challenges of writing for Instagram, or do you find that it’s a medium that suits your poetry? Does it limit you at all?

Instagram is still pretty new to me, but that has been the only limitation I have really faced there, taking the time to get to know the interface. I have only been putting my work up there for the last six months or so, initially very sporadically – once every few days rather than daily as I have been doing now – that’s why I only have a little more than a hundred posts up there. I find it a medium that suits my poetry because I love creating visuals for my poems, and people on Instagram have been so very encouraging. It was a big surprise how many people liked my work there, honestly.

Has posting your poetry online presented you with any challenges?

The biggest challenge I have faced with posting my poetry online is that of my poetry being stolen, people removing my credits and presenting visual poetry as their own by cutting off my credits. Unfortunately, that is a risk of putting any kind of art or writing online. Putting yourself out there is hard, but you have to be brave with it.

Did the exposure from your recent press affect you and your writing?

Completely. I mean, I tend to keep to myself a lot. I am quite reclusive as a person and was really surprised with everything that has happened recently. I didn’t expect it at all. I’m just someone who likes to create poems and post them to my blog and Instagram so that someone, somewhere, might read them and realise they are not alone. When people liked them as much as they did, I was taken aback and so happy that I wasn’t alone in these feelings, that so many could relate. The best thing about the exposure is how many wonderful, warm, kind people reached out to me, and how many of them said that something I had written had helped them. I was so moved. It has encouraged me to write more, and to write better.

How did you feel when a Kardashian Instagrammed your poem without crediting you?

Not my favourite moment. The only reason I found out was because someone who follows my Tumblr got in touch with me and said, ‘Isn’t this yours?’ and I saw it on her Instagram. A few people had mentioned in the comments section that it belonged to me, but other than that there was no way to find out where it was from, which was very frustrating. It was, however, awesome to see how many people could relate to it, and I tried to focus on that, rather than the fact that it had been put up uncredited.

When did you realise that Instagram was a good idea for an outlet for your work?

Actually, it was right after the above experience. I thought Instagram is a great place to put up visual-based poetry, and if I actually had an Instagram account where I presented my poems with my own visual style and identity, then perhaps my style would become easy to recognise as my own. Instagram has definitely done that for me.

Was there a moment when you realised your poetry was very popular?

I didn’t realise that my work was popular at all until my friends began to spot it across social media. I would get messages like ‘Found this here’ or ‘This group shared your poem!’ Honestly, it still hasn’t really sunk in. I just like to write. People are exceptionally kind. A few people have had some of my poetry tattooed and I think it is a massive honour for any writer to have a spot on someone’s skin.

What is the main difference between your modern poetry and that of the classics?

Ooh. I can’t really compare anything I write to the calibre of classic literature. I mean, my objective when I write is just to be able to relate to people, to empathize with their pain, to let them know they are not alone in the world. Whereas the great classical poets had much deeper themes, with very intricately woven truths within them. My words are simplistic, my need to uncomplicate my feelings is obvious in my words, whereas classical poets worked in layers of complicated feelings still managing to tie it all together in the end.

What are some of your favourite poems you’ve have written? Which mean the most to you?

It’s always hard to choose a favourite poem. I never consider any of my poetry finished, there is always something more that I could say, or say it in a better way. But my most favourite prose poem that I have ever written, because it is a tribute to someone who meant a lot to me [is this]: http://thoughtcatalog.com/nikita-gill/2015/11/obsession/

My favourite short poem that I have ever written was written on a flight, on a napkin of all things, inspired by the strength and resilience of a fellow passenger and their story. It’s called ‘Old Souls.

You’re currently writing a book, which we are very excited about! What can we expect?

I am indeed writing a book at the moment! The book is called Your Soul is a River and is all about dealing with trauma and sadness, growing from loss and sad experiences, closure and the value of your soul and life’s most beautiful gifts – love, nature, the cosmos, and what they can teach you about yourself. I have poured my whole heart into it, and have been fortunate enough to get an incredible publisher. I will make an official announcement for the launch very soon!
Interview conducted by Remy Millar

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