Words by Åsta Dale
Photography by Lasse Fløde
Instagram poet, Alexander Fallo, says it’s easier to write about heartbreak than love. Gooey love stuff is rarely interesting to read, he says. Instead, he explores fragments often found in young or hopeful love, like expectations and miscommunications. With a careful selection of words, Fallo’s poems move more than 17.3k followers each day. They’re short, fragmented, but rich in romance and depth. All the poet wants is to make people stop staring at their screens, and finally see each other again—that his poems might be the antithesis of a world where relations tend to become more and more ephemeral. In short, all Fallo wants, is to share a little love.
Upon arriving (a little late) at Café Laundromat at Bislett, Oslo, he meets me with a warm smile and, before we really get talking, expresses his concern that it might be a bit too noisy in there to catch his low (others would say soft) voice on tape. Before I’ve decided whether we should stay or go, he is already on his way over to the bar to have our coffees transferred to paper cups, and comes back saying we should go to the park (a very welcome suggestion on this balmy early autumn afternoon).
"I don’t write that much about being in love as I write about expectations and miscommunication. It fascinates me how people can talk past each other, how they interpret things differently. I like to write dialogues, really, where two people are talking without understanding what the other is actually saying."
Which is quite the opposite experience of reading Fallo’s poems. Where others may speak lengthily and elaborately without saying much, the brown-eyed 33-year-old hits you on the spot with a few simple lines in your Instagram feed. Some have described it as reading a long story from a small sentence.
og alle varsellamper blinker
men de lyser så jævla fint her i mørket
and every warning light is flashing
but they shine so fucking nice here in the dark
It all started when Fallo took a picture of a Word document and posted it on Instagram, at a time when writing had been tough. He felt as if nothing he wrote was any good, but suddenly, by posting poems on Instagram, writing became rewarding again.
Fallo explains how he easily gets restless and self-critical, which is one of the reasons this form fits him so well—he likes to write fast, not getting caught up in fine adjustments, or leaving too much room for doubt. Instagram frees the poet from preconceptions, letting his bursts of creativity manifest, in extracts of contemplation, which, although short (and often ambiguous), really seem to hit a common human nerve.
"Once I met a girl (out of town) who told me that, during a certain period, maybe in recovering from a heartbreak or something, it had been as if my poems had described exactly how she was feeling from day to day, as if they had reflected her different stages in that process."
And here lies some of the beauty of this new genre of poetry—It becomes sort of a collective, dynamic project, inviting people to partake.
du kan ikke få alt
du peker på
men du kan få meg
you can't have everything
that you point your finger at
but you can have me
Despite this, Fallo tries not to let the number of likes or nature of comments affect his writing, but doesn’t exclude the possibility of being unconsciously influenced by his followers. After all, his work is a continuous process, a collection of poems with a life of its own.
"On Instagram, I’m the character Alexander Fallo, who is (in many ways) both me and not me. I think people like the proximity, getting to know this character, one poem at the time."
This provides a new way of experiencing literature, where things like the timing of a post, and response from readers also become part of the art. As an Instagram poet, Fallo gets more immediate recognition than other young writers. He has never been part of the writers’ community, and understands that not all established writers love that he comes in from a different angle.
"A friend once told me ‘You know, there’s a lot of people who hate you for all the attention you get.’ And I do get a lot of attention, maybe a bit too easily. But to be honest, I like to be the guy who can say, ‘fuck those closed poetry-group-jerk-off-meetings,’ where writers lock themselves behind closed doors to brag about being read by only ten people. Sure, that can result in a lot of really good literature, but why can’t we just open up and make poetry more accessible?"
Fallo aspires to reach out to people who otherwise wouldn’t have sought out poetry, hopefully offering an entry to a greater interest in literature. And he does it with great pride and authenticity. Fallo wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t hide behind irony.
"On the internet, things are expected to be light and ironic. But I think there is room for authenticity as well. People like things that are real and heartfelt. And as relationships become more ephemeral, the more important it is to be authentic and real."
But this openness isn’t always problem-free. On several occasions people have (over)interpreted the message, thinking the poems are about them specifically, and have got hurt or worried.
"Friends often ask whether I’m okay or not. And I mostly am. But you know, gooey love stuff is rarely interesting to read. It’s easier to write about heartbreak than making a good poem about being in love. I think it’s because when you’re in love you’re going somewhere, it’s not the time to sit down and think. Whereas, when you’re heartbroken you need to do some self-reflection."
du kjenner ikke meg men
barna våre kommer til å
høre om den natta
du kommer bort gjennomsvett
og full av liv i strobelyset
roper inn i øret mitt
har ikke jeg sett deg før
you don't know me but
our children are going to
hear about that night
you came over all sweaty
and full of life in the strobe light
screaming in my ear
haven't I seen you before
Judging by the 1500 (and counting) poems on Instagram, Alexander Fallo, the character, seems to be a warm and kind man who is looking for that one big love—someone who will understand every fragment of his restless, self-doubting, flickering, hopeful, loving self. You know, the truly deep and immersive gooey love experience. But what about Fallo, the person, the romantic fool, does he believe in true love?
"I think we simply have to make a choice to believe in true love. If you take away hopes and dreams in a possible love experience, you won’t be able to fall in love. You have to be able to let go, and when you do, you open yourself up to emotions and senses you don’t experience that often. Everyone has a picture of what the great love is. I don’t think there’s only one person who’s right for you, I think there’re many, but I think love is about timing, and I know that when you’ve finally found something you’ve been looking for, then it’s important to just embrace it and be in it. You have to nurture it, dare to dream big, even though it’s hard. But there is no doubt that it’s challenging to be with one person for a longer period of time. After all, you never know where life takes you."
Fallo pauses, thinks.
"That was a long answer. I might be able to shorten that one, if you want? I think we can sum it up to something like this: 1+1=?"