The Atlantic

How Instagram Saved Poetry

Social media is turning an art form into an industry.
Source: Nabil Shash

Tom spent his days as a clerk, two floors below ground level in the cellars of Lloyds Bank. He worked in the foreign-transactions department from 9:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, and in his free moments between filing and tabulating balance sheets, he wrote.

Tom was better known to the world as T. S. Eliot. By the time he started as a clerk in 1917, his most popular poem—The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock—had been published to great acclaim. But even then, despite his bank salary, the man who has often been called the greatest poet of the 20th century struggled to make ends meet. He accepted money from relatives to buy underwear and pajamas, and anxiety over his finances drove him to breakdowns.

Poetry has always been an art form, but it has rarely been a career even for the most legendary poets. William Carlos Williams was a . Wallace Stevens was an . Charles Bukowski held a , including work as a dishwasher, a truck driver, a gas-station attendant, and a postal clerk. The poet’s story has long been one of a double life, split between two urgent duties: making a living and making art.

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