How Orion Carloto Redefined Poetry for Gen Z
Writer and YouTube star Orion Carloto can trace her career back to a single high school poetry assignment. Since then, the 24-year-old has used social media to share her work, earning hundreds of thousands of eager readers and leading to the publication of her second book, Film For Her.
“I found that there was this place for me that felt so right,” she says over the phone, describing her first poetry experience. She began posting excerpts of her work on Tumblr and Instagram, eventually gaining over 730,000 followers on the photo app. She later started making fashion and lifestyle content on YouTube, where she’s earned over 400,000 subscribers. From there she published her first book, Flux, in 2017. Film For Her, out November 17, shows just how much Carloto has matured in those three years since.
“My last project, it was really based on one emotion: heartbreak,” she says. “It was very easy to hover above anger and resentment in my writing and play this card of, like, pity me. In the course of the past three years, I feel like I've definitely matured from that state of mind. I've taken time to really study and understand other poets.”
Film For Her, which began as an Instagram account, is now a multimedia book of poetry, musings, and film photographs from Carloto’s recent life off-camera. Here Carloto tells us how she put her “hidden moments” to the page.
What inspired Film For Her?
It actually started as an Instagram account. I picked up film photography as a little side hobby, [and] I found myself taking photos of these moments that I felt were sacred to me. When I got the film back I would look at the photos and be like, These look so boring. But then it occurred to me to create this account, to post these very boring snippets of my life, but add a story to it, to really explain why I thought taking that photo was important to me and whatever memory it brought back.
How do you think social media has changed poetry?
A few years ago, if you would've asked anyone to pick up a poetry book, they would look at you like you were crazy. They're just going to jump straight to the assumption that it's, you know, something Shakespearian they won't be able to understand. So the internet has definitely made poetry more accessible and not just for readers, but also for other writers. I think it really took seeing other people at that time who were posting their work and finding some similarities in it and understanding that it's not too crazy to do the exact same thing—especially around that time. It was really the age of Tumblr.
How did you land a publisher?
I will say, I did get really lucky. [Andrews McMeel Publishing], they were really the first publisher that gave modern poets a chance, because everyone else was just like, “This is good, but it's not going to sell.” That being said, with the second book [for them], there was a little bit of work going into pitching [and] putting together something beautiful.
When I went into posting online, it wasn't with the idea of like, I need to post and somebody will see this one day. It really is just enjoying your own art. And if somebody decides they want to pick that up, that's wonderful. But even if not, that should never stop you from continuing to write. Having a publishing deal doesn't solidify [you] as a writer.
What is your writing routine?
I always start with a cup of coffee and I try to at least read for 30 minutes before [starting to write]. It doesn't really matter what book I'm reading, just something to get my brain in that mode of, This is what we're about to do for the next two hours. Typically I would go to a coffee shop and write from there, or by the shore in Malibu, or the park. And while I'm kind of limited in doing that [due to the pandemic], I've just been writing from my kitchen table. If I'm at my desk and my computer is right there, the world is at my fingertips. Sometimes I'll look through my notes app, and it's a reminder to myself—there was poetry in here somewhere. So work with it, find out how to use it.
How has the pandemic affected your work?
I find myself enjoying it. It's definitely challenged myself to really focus and hone in on moments of my life that I haven't really touched on before, which is wonderful, because it's so easy to think about highlights in your life and write about them.
How has poetry changed your relationship with your followers?
I can go online and post anything and talk about anything, but the moments where I do feel lonely or I do feel that heartbreak, I'm not going on the internet and telling everyone about it. [My followers are] experiencing that for the first time when they open up my book and they read that there's all these hidden moments. There's definitely a strong connection, because there have been many instances where I've met followers of mine and people who read my book, and they were able to relate—we can talk outside of like, “Hey, I've seen you on the internet.” There is definitely that deeper level.