“You must keep falling in love
knowing that it will destroy you.”
Target audience: Fans of Rupi Kaur, Atticus, Lang Leav, Amanda Lovelace, Nikita Gill, Tyler Knott Gregson, r.H. Sin
Who to read after: Nayyirah Waheed, Warsan Shire, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Morgan Parker, Vivek Shraya, Gwen Banaway, Priscila Uppal, Afieya Kipp, Bhanu Kapil
Madisen Kuhn is a self-described ‘instagram poet.’ If you google ‘instagram poet,’ one of the first hits will be ‘instagram poets are ruining everything,’ and while there are valid critiques of this new genre and some of its forerunners, the genre is not one to be scoffed at. Madisen has over 38 thousand followers on instagram, which is nothing compared to pop-poet Rupi Kaur’s three million. The genre of instagram or pop poetry is growing, and though it isn’t for everyone, it’s extremely important for some.
Before I read her latest book, I followed Madisen Kuhn on instagram, where many of her poems appeared before they were in print, and where most of her fans connect with her. Madisen’s social media presence is crisp, candid and youthful. Her instagram posts are a mix of poetry against white backgrounds, posing in bookstores with her books, sponsored jewelery and clothing, and posts of her friends and family. Madisen often captions her photos with advice, lessons she’s learned in her 22 years on the planet, and nods to her boyfriend. Her insta aesthetic is, without a doubt, on point. Understanding or appreciating her writing is difficult without engaging with her instagram account. Like Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav, Madisen’s poetry relies on social media, branding, and a carefully curated minimalist aesthetic. It is very appealing to look at, and the bright-eyed writer, with apple cheeks and cute vintage denim is captivating. Relatable. A regular 22-year old in college. Her second book, Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, is a physical extension of her digital presence. The cover is beautiful, the pages are filled with short poems and prose accompanied by black and white line drawings and pull quotes in handwriting. Many parts of the book are straightforward journal entries (‘Philadelphia’), which again harkens back to the confessional nature of social media. Unfortunately, much of this book is little more than journal entries.
I didn’t find myself invested in this collection, however I think as a teenager I would have related immensely. Many pieces deal with first loves, going to school, friendship, and other growing pains. It reads like the diary of a teenage girl and reminds me of when my friends and I had livejournal and would contribute to a collective diary every week. This collection will appeal best to fans of Rupi Kaur, Amanda Lovelace and other pop poets.
As with most pop poetry, Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, feels more like a book of inspirational quotes than straightforward poetry. There are several very important works in the collection, such as the prose piece ‘nineteen,’ a meditation on being alone, or ‘I was happy,’ a piece about letting go of a high school sweetheart. Madisen writes frankly about mental illness in a way that is accessible and straightforward. Her pieces about anxiety often stray into the unfortunate trope of romantic relationships fixing or attempting to fix mental illness, but ultimately there is a level of vulnerability that makes this collection resonant to her followers. Young woman don’t have enough outlets to talk about their mental illnesses and this book is a fantastic conversation starter. Furthermore, certain pieces, such as ‘a sorry sort of snake’ show Madisen’s potential to move beyond pop poetry and become a great writer. I am looking forward to following Madisen Kuhn’s career, and will gift this collection to a young woman in my life.
Pick up a copy of ‘Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better’ here.