SK Williams merges relatable poetry with art to reach a growing audience.
SK Williams is a poet living in the cozy artistic town of Bellingham, Washington. Williams presents poetry on Instagram with visually engaging images, often including gemstones and other elements from nature to further express the message of each pocket-sized poem. Currently working on a book of poetry, Williams shared insights into a modern poetic life.
When did you start writing poetry, and how have you progressed to this point?
I started writing poetry when I was 16. It began as a response to traumatic situations going on in my life, and in the beginning, the poetry came out of a very dark place. It was a safe way to communicate that I was upset with the way things were in my life. And then life happened and I kind of lost that poetry. I was still writing but in a different form. Seven years later, I’m browsing a bookstore, and I see the poetry section. I walk over and pick up a book on display. Flipping through the pages, looking at the modern take on poetry, it was like opening my eyes for the first time in my life. I didn’t know you could do this with poetry. I read through a couple books and thought, “You know, I could do this.” So I just started to write. I had a friend I shared my poetry with, and she suggested the idea of putting my work out there. And so I discovered the world of Instagram poetry.
Your poetry is powerful, and the way you blend it with art is fascinating. Do you have a visual arts background, or how did you come up with the aesthetic for your Instagram poetry?
I worked in the film industry down in Los Angeles for many years, and I dabbled in photography. When I was in high school, I used to sketch a lot. So I do have some formal visual arts education.
When I first started out, it was just words for me. But I always knew I needed some visual element—because that’s what Instagram is—it’s a place where people go to find spectacle. So I started with sketches. It wasn’t something that I enjoyed—it was sort of a chore. But then at some point, I started to see what I call arrangements. People would set up their poems with flowers or a gemstone or something. One of the first aesthetics I really fell in love with was Wilder. I wanted to do that, but make it my own. A good friend of mine likes to remind me that I am a light to people. And so as a result, the look is largely inspired by the stars and the cosmos.
Do you like Instagram as a platform for poetry?
Something I noticed right away when I started putting my poetry on Instagram is that everyone in the poetry community is so uplifting and supportive. I wasn’t really a part of social media before this because I always felt like it was a place of drama and argument. I think it’s really beautiful and heartwarming that you can go to a place like Instagram and find so much peace and happiness and meaning to your life.
What are the biggest challenges and greatest rewards of your art?
One of the biggest challenges is finding time and money to keep things going. I quickly realized it will take a long time for the art to provide any sort of return, if it ever does. And that is okay. When I accepted that the art wouldn’t ever provide a dependable income, it put less pressure on my poetry and I was able to write from a more free and vulnerable place.
The greatest reward is in the way it impacts people, the way they connect with it. When someone reaches out to you to let you know that you’re speaking the same language as them—in a way they could never voice before, that means a lot. It makes me feel like this is doing something.
Before we go, is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
One of the most important things to me, that I feel like I can never communicate, is that I don’t do this alone. A wonderful friend of mine takes a lot of the photos and puts many of the arrangements together herself. She has consistently helped me find the confidence and courage to put my work out there. And whatever success comes my way—whatever adoration you have for my work—extends to her as well.
Keep up with SK Williams’ growing collection of poetry on Instagram, and be on the lookout for Williams’ book of poetry releasing next year!