Poet of millennials: How Nikita Gill became the voice of the generation with her cathartic words
The first time Nikita Gill realised that she loved writing was when she was 12 and had just published her first piece in a local newspaper in India. It was an article about her grandfather as a young man in Kashmir. “It was an incredible feeling, to give a story to people you do not know, and to know that they may take something away from it,” she says.
Perhaps, it is this desire to connect beyond physical limitations that kept Gill hooked to writing and has made her an Instagram star; she has an army of 2.5 million followers. In 2015, UK-based Gill started uploading her poems on Instagram (nikita_gill), a medium that had just started to get people curious about it. Today, she’s a published author with three titles under her belt; her latest being Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty, which released in September.
But it wasn’t an easy ride. Her first manuscript was rejected by 137 publishers. “I turned the rejections into fuel to better my writing. I can honestly say that all those rejections were excellent for my spirit and my soul. It made me recognise that I needed to improve my writing and how important the constant evolution of a writer truly is,” says 30-year-old Gill.
So what is it about her poetry that has captured the imagination of thousands of people, especially, in this age of reduced attention spans and instant gratification? Keeping larger forces such as the universe, stars, far-away galaxies as her inspiration, Gill works themes of anxiety, loneliness and heartbreak into her poems. These are relatable to her readers and their cathartic nature is like a soothing balm for aching hearts.+
“The human experience and it’s correlation to nature is one of the most inspiring things in the world. And how we interact with each other, the great sadness and joy we experience due to the actions of others or ourselves are subjects we can all relate to,” she says.
And poetry of this empathetic nature has turned authors like Gill, Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav into millennial favourites. Kaur’s first book Milk and Honey (2014) sold 1.4 million copies; her latest, The Sun and Her Flowers has debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Similarly, Leav has recently published Sad Girls, her debut novel.
Love and loss
The themes explored by all these writers are similar: loss, suffering, migration, displacement — feelings that most young readers experience but are unable to put into words. “I find these emotions cathartic as opposed to draining. Ever since I was a child, the world overwhelmed me and often. I empathised with pain, which was sometimes occurring halfway across the world. And to clear my head of all those negative emotions, I’d write them down,” says Gill.+
Apart from the relatable themes, what makes this form of poetry accessible to millions is that it is simplified to bite-sized verses, perfect for the Instagram generation. But Gill doesn’t like being called an ‘Instapoet’. “Instagram is just one of the five platforms I share my work on. My longer work is published on Tumblr and Facebook. I am working on a book of fairytales right now, which has less to with poetry and more to do with lore. I also write for ThoughtCatalog. So, the label of ‘Instapoet’ is limiting,” she adds.
Gill is also working on an untitled novel and her third poetry anthology called Your Heart is the Sea. “I’m at that point where I’m so passionate about what I’m doing that it’s all I can think about. I’m travelling a lot, meeting so many new people, reconnecting with old friends and just trying to become a better version of myself, which is so inspirational and such a marvellous journey to be on,” says Gill.
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