Each April, we come together with the rest of the world to celebrate National Poetry Month. This year, we couldn’t help but notice one poet in particular— r.h. Sin. The New Jersey born author hosts an Instagram page adorned with powerful short poems and serene lifestyle photography, each amassing tens of thousands of likes from his dedicated followers. Outside of his noteworthy social media presence, he’s garnered a similar cult-following through his printed titles, such as Whiskey Words & a Shovel, Planting Gardens in Graves, and—most recently—She Felt Like Feeling Nothing. Intrigued not only by his success, but by his affinity for featuring feminist themes in his writing, we decided to chat with the poet himself and learn more.
We’re constantly in awe of the number of people who come forward and celebrate Poetry Month with us each year. We can’t think of a more dedicated fan base! What is it about poetry that resonates so deeply with people?
I think more than ever, people just want to know that they are not alone in terms of what they’re feeling and or what they may be going through. As a writer, you discover just how powerful it is to share your truths as well as express things that others may have difficulty finding the words for. What I love about this niche and this genre is that anything is poetry and anything can be poetic as long as it derives from the truth, somewhere deep. There was a period of time when all the world wanted to do was suppress emotional truths, and we are at a point in our existence where we are brave enough to confront everything we used to keep hidden. . .and poetry allows this.
If I may, I just want to thank all the souls of those who have allowed writers like myself to reach them with words. I am very grateful for the opportunity to express myself to poetry lovers all around the world.
We’re pretty obsessed with your Instagram account and the short poems you share on it. Would you say social media is one of the keys to building a relationship with your audience?
Thank you, I really appreciate it. Social media has played a major role from the beginning for me. All the way back to Myspace, I realized that any platform on the Internet where people could share their views and stories would somehow impact my own future, my own expression. For me, social media is an artist’s outlet and bridge to the world. In 2006, I realized just how powerful these forums could be as I began to share my thoughts, my feelings, and in return, I was able to build my first initial audience and list of readers. I can recall having an Android phone and waiting for Instagram to be available to my device. I had already begun formatting my content specifically for Instagram in preparation for the opportunity to share my ideas there. If you can recall the early days on a platform like Instagram, there were photos, pictures of landscapes, selfies, etc. Instagram was a photographer’s portfolio, and I wanted so badly to help transform it into a blank canvas, adding words that would somehow resonate with others. Truths and stories that people like me could relate to. I wanted social media to be a place where we discussed things, a place where people could go and see for sure that they were not alone.
After officially joining Instagram in 2012, I saw how fast and how easy it was to connect with others who were feeling some of what I’d experienced and what I expressed. There’s a sense of community on Instagram, and I just so happen to have some of the best readers, supporters, and creatives in my community, in my social space. I get these awesome messages sometimes from people who started following my account in 2012, and they tell me how much my words have impacted their lives; I’ve seen so many of my readers grow. Go from unhealthy relationships to being happy alone and loving themselves to getting married and building a life with someone worthy of their love. I like that my Instagram has helped cultivate and groom my relationship with the individuals who have chosen to find solace in my words. Those relationships matter so much to me, the relationship of writer to reader.
Likes and followers are great, of course, but they’re certainly not all that poetry has given you. We learned that poetry is part of the reason you met your wife! Can you share that story with us?
It’s funny, we’re in Arizona right now for a bit and we literally told this story to some of the people we were hiking with this morning.
On December 3rd, I received a message from a stranger – a strong, intelligent, vibrant woman, who simply wanted to say hi. She wrote something inspired by something I expressed, and so the conversation continued on for days. For the first time in my life, the thought of not talking to a person . . . this person . . . began to haunt me. It’s one of those things that may be hard to explain, even for a writer, but I just felt like this stranger, whom I was slowly getting to know, was actually the very thing I’d been missing. And even though we were just voices on a phone, images on a computer, and words in texts, I couldn’t let her go. I asked her to be my girlfriend on December 19th, 2014; 5 months later I’d visit her in New York. I was living in Florida at that time and by the second visit . . . I ended up not going home. In fact, I haven’t been back to Florida since then.
I asked my favorite person, my favorite writer, Samantha King, to marry me on December 19th, 2016, and we got married in a private ceremony for two on a beach in Hawaii on October 15th, 2017. Who knew writing about our pain would somehow bring us love; poetry brought us together. I often think poetry saved my life, but in fact poetry was the bridge that got me closer to the person who I’d been saving my life for.
Your poetry discusses both female empowerment and female emotions as a whole. Why did these topics become a focus of your work?
I grew up in a single parent home. My father was the first person to break my heart, and I would have never known love if it wasn’t for my mother. I think my content can be vice versa, the ideas, the stories, the situations. There are men who can relate to so much of what I express, but I usually find myself speaking to women because that’s what my life growing up was. Me consoling my mother as a child or writing her letters or birthday cards that included what could now be seen as poetry. Me, giving advice to the young women in my family. I grew up with this understanding that women go through so many things, so many battles, so many emotions, so much hurt, and this was evident growing up in a family that produced more women than men, and so I often saw relationships and love from their point of view. I have a lot of compassion for the female gender because if it wasn’t for a woman fighting to survive while keeping me alive, I wouldn’t even be here in this moment answering this question. I think all in all my purpose is to use my voice and my position to encourage the oppressed, and being that I am who I am from the people in which I come from, I KNOW FIRSTHAND what it means to be oppressed, overlooked, and unappreciated. My main purpose is to help others. That was always the plan. I think I’m very fortunate to be one of the writers capable of reminding women that they are strong and powerful. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Do you think that the fourth-wave feminism that we’re seeing today has influenced the content you put out or the amount of people it’s reached, specifically on social media?
I can’t honestly say that I’m fully influenced by what we’re seeing today because I began directing my expression, poetry, and voice toward female empowerment in 2006/2007 and at that time, this was just me sharing my ideas, advice, and encouragement. I think the difference between then and now for me is that I often received threats and or no one took my poetry or prose seriously I guess. Being raised by a woman and being surrounded by women in my family or being in relationships, if you’re fully committed to listening to a woman, you find that these issues have been going on for so long and it’s refreshing and powerful to see that we are finally having these discussions. Women are expressing so much of their truths and being unapologetic about it. There are more consequences for all the wrongdoing, and more men especially are being held accountable for the part they’ve played in the mistreatment toward women.
I write books in phases, my earliest books that lend my ideas to female empowerment were before I met my wife and since our courtship and marriage, I’ve garnered a newfound respect, love, and understanding for women. Born to Love, Cursed to Feel, a book written by my wife, included so many feelings and experiences before we met. That book provided a new window with a fresh perspective that inspired so much of what I’m writing nowadays. It provided a new angle for me and it has also shaped the way I intend to deliver my ideas whenever the topic pertains to women as a whole.
I do believe that this new wave of feminism is very much strengthened by social media because once again, here’s a forum where like minds, powerful minds, open-minded individuals can come together and share their truths on a stage that can ultimately maximize the velocity of their voices. I also believe that this current movement is reading more, educating themselves with knowledge, and leaning toward anything that encourages them to be loud and mighty when it concerns their emotional truths and their experiences. I’ve noticed a shift in power, self-esteem, and courage. That makes me smile, that makes me happy because I’m one of those guys who loves the idea of female leadership, and I also understand the value of a woman because my friendship/relationship/marriage to such an amazing woman has taught me so much.
As society shifts, do you think the focus of your poetry (and poetry, in general) will evolve?
I think I’ll always provide a sort of social commentary to the topic of women, relationships, heartbreak, and love, but I’ve found that there are a lot of things that must also be discussed or further expanded upon. I’ve had my struggles with depression and I’d like to venture out into my internal space that will allow me to find the words to better express some of those battles and how I’ve overcome yet still have so much work to do in maintaining myself mentally and emotionally.
I’ll be honest, I guess I worry at times that because most things are viewed as trends that somehow writers in poetry will focus on one topic because that one topic has been able to be deemed a successful topic or one that will help them bring attention to their content. I like that I began writing about the things that I wrote about before there was anything to actually gain. I released my first book after almost a decade of focusing on what my heart wanted to express. Evolution occurs when passion is the foundation. If poets are passionate in what they express, then their works of art will naturally evolve whether it’s because of societal times or because of their individual evolution as a person. More writers focusing on sharing what’s important to them rather than what will bring them fame will help this genre evolve.
For me personally, there is in fact something new brewing within my soul, and I can’t wait to share it with my readers in the near future.
Your latest book, She Felt Like Feeling Nothing, is not only the fastest-selling preorder in poetry this year, it went through two print runs before it was even released! Poetry and literature have become so accessible digitally, but do you think there will always be a place for them in print?
Imagine being an up-and-coming poet and being told that somehow it won’t work. In 2014, I began working on my first book, well, putting it together. At the time of my first ever release in print, there had been possibly three other poets who were experiencing what would later become a major success in this genre. I believe that as long as we as poets remain driven and connected to our readers, as long as we give them our hearts and also continue the work of helping others heal, then our words will continue to be printed even as other genres begin to dissolve into digital capsules.
Think about it, our genre has been the slowest in terms of digital reading but as far as print goes, we’ve seen one of the biggest increases in the last few years and I believe that it’ll be even bigger as time passes. There’s just something about having and holding a book. The smell of it, the feel of it. I believe that books, especially ones that make you feel all sorts of things, should also occupy a physical space wherever you reside and wherever you decide to go. Yes, e-books are convenient but there is something majestic about flipping through pages and bending the spine of your favorite book in an effort to consume all of its words.
She Felt Like Feeling Nothing physically feels like no other book I’ve ever written. From the texture of the cover to the feel of the pages. This book was intended to be held physically and carried through sleepless nights and through tough days.
Let’s end on this final thought. What are your hopes and wishes for the future of your poetry?
First and foremost, I’m looking forward to my wife releasing a second book. She has so much to say and I believe her next book will usher in a new poetic space in terms of topics and ideas.
I believe that even though this genre has taken off once more and surpassed all expectations, so many people may still believe that it’s only a fad or something that is only budding for the moment, but I truly believe that this is just the beginning and this genre will continue to shatter glass ceilings.
I just hope I’ve done enough to keep it going.
Are you familiar with r.h. Sin and his work? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Be sure to pick up the latest release from r.h. Sin – She Felt Like Feeling Nothing, available for just $17.99 in your Barnes & Noble College bookstore starting April 10th!