Czechs go global with poetry social network

Lukáš Sedláček, photo: Archive of Lukáš Sedláček

A free global network for poets and poetry lovers, developed in the Czech Republic, has recently been launched in the United States. Called Poetizer, it allows its users to publish and share their poems and aims to serve as an alternative to the existing social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. The site was originally founded in 2017 as a mobile app and currently covers some 120 countries with over 65,000 poems written by its users.

Lukáš Sedláček,  photo: Archive of Lukáš Sedláček
When I met with Lukáš Sedláček, founder and managing director of Poetizer, I first asked him to tell me where he got the idea to establish the global poetry platform:

“I consider myself to be an amateur writer. I wrote some poems when I was small and then around the age of 20. I got back to it some four years ago, when I was sitting in a park in Prague and I was getting bored, but at the same time it was the first day of spring and the weather was wonderful.

“So I wrote this poem into my mobile and I thought: Ok, so what’s the next step? Do I want to publish it on my Facebook? Do I want to put it on Instagram or do I just keep it in my desk?

“And as I thought about it, it just dawned upon me that there might be more people who experience the same issue when writing poetry. There was not an adequate platform where to post it so that not only a couple of friends from your country could see it, but it could be seen globally.

“So I was thinking how to create a platform where your voice could be heard, a platform that would enable anyone to voice their concerns and feelings so it would be heard around the world.

“That is the beauty of it. We can connect based on our feelings and emotions: we all share these no matter where we are from, what religion we are, what political views we have. So that was the first impetus for creating it.”

So how does the platform work?

“It works just like any other social networking site or social media platform. We want to connect the users, enable them to follow each other and read each other’s poetry. You can connect with the people, comment on their poems, encourage them, and read more of their poetry.

“But the main characteristic is that it is strictly for poetry. You don’t have to take pictures of your poem, you can write it straight into your mobile or into your computer and you can edit it every word very easily.

“The idea of artistic expression was very important for us. At the same time it was important for us to enable people to get to know each other globally. So one of the next steps in the development of the platform will be introducing intra-messaging system so people can write each other directly through the platform and they won’t have to go to some other social networking sites.”

You launched the platform in the US. Does it mean that the English-speaking audience is your target group?

“We launched this new platform last year at the end of November. We launched the campaign a little bit in the Czech Republic but the main audience we want to reach in this phase is the English-speaking audience and one of the countries we focus on is the US.

“One of the reasons was to find out how to approach people writing poetry in the United States, what is the most effective way of getting to them, what will be their response and to let them know about this platform.

“Another reason is that there has been a very high rise in interest in poetry in the United States, Canada and the UK, and other English-speaking countries. This rise has been attributed to the young generation, to the Millenials, and we found this trend quite fascinating.”

“We want to create a safe space where everything that matters is the shape of your words.”

So, in a way, Poetizer could be seen as an alternative to other social networks.

“Yes. It’s an alternative. It seeks to create a safe space, so we are very strict about bullying, plagiarism, racist comments and so on. You can be there as yourself or chose a pen-name and be anonymous.

“We want to create a safe space where everything that matters is the shape of your worlds. So in other words we want to value and highlight the importance of authenticity. “Honesty is a very valuable attribute these days, because we are faced with different fakes and pretence. Everywhere we look, including the social media sites, people are trying to pretend they are something they are not.

“If you are having a bad day, why not express it? And if you are having a good day, why not express it as well? You don’t have to pretend that you are happy and successful all the time, because none of us is.”

As you said there has been a huge rise in the number of poetry readers in recent years. How did that happen?

“It is a very interesting phenomenon, because just a few years back there were articles written about poetry dying out and different initiatives to save poetry and how to make young people interested in poetry again.

“Interestingly enough, it started to be of high interest for the young generation and there have been different analysis lately in the UK and the US trying to examine what is actually happening, because it’s a trend that hasn’t been foreseen even by the biggest specialists in the market.

“One of the reasons they give for the rise of poetry is that it has become a voice of those who want to be heard. At the same time, it’s something that doesn’t require you to be rich. Poetry has always been a form of expression for the masses.

“And there have even been a study suggesting that poetry is in a way becoming a new form of religion for the young people. The reason for this might be that it’s a realm where truth is valued and at the same time it is a very equal-based platform and it’s something that brings about human connections. So that’s one of the explanations that have been given for this rise.”

Poetizer currently runs in three language versions: Spanish, English and Czech. What do you actually know about your users?

“We have already 64,000 poems on our platform and we can see the same trend the media are writing about. The ones who are most interested and the ones who download the most are people from the age of 15 to 25.

“There is some shared experience of life that crosses all boundaries we can think of.”

“What’s also interesting is that we introduced just a little bit Poetizer to other countries, including Australia, the UK, Philippines and India and we have seen an amazing interest. It is something we didn’t anticipate. You can see that it really is something that does unite people globally.

“When you read and when you read about a person having a hangover in India and at the same time someone is falling in love in the US, and you get all these experiences written on the platform, it sort of makes you start believing in a religion that doesn’t have a name, in the sense that there is some shared experience of life that crosses all boundaries we can think of.”

You had some major investors helping you to establish the platform in the beginning. What will sustain Poetizer’s growth in the future?

“I wouldn’t call them major investments but they were investment that helped us to achieve our aims at the stage of development. What is important to realize is that if you want to do anything good in the world you have to make it sustainable.

“We want to create this wonderful platform for everyone in the world to be part of. It’s going to be always free for people to join. We want to be aware and not go in the same path of other social networks, how they monetize their users’ data and how they spam them with ads.

“For us it is a life-long project that we want to roll out very carefully, so that we can attain the highest quality and satisfaction for our users. Once you have users who are active and happy, it’s a good sign, also for investors. “

What regions do you want to focus on in the future?

“With regions, we have set as our first goal the English speaking countries. Then we would like to expand to other countries with the Spanish version. It’s one of the regions where poetry is pretty much a big hit, so we would like to go to South America.

“At the same time we want to expand to Asia, where there is big respect and appreciation of poetry, be it the Middle East, be it far Asia, India and all these countries. So that’s our plan. “One of the tricky questions will be what to do with countries such as China and the classical dilemma with countries which tend to supress the artistic form of expression.”

You said Poetry was now a big thing among millennials. But will you also try to respect other generations which are perhaps not used to reading and writing poetry?

“Definitely. What we are witnessing is that it’s not only the young people but also the classical, traditional poets, who are joining our platform, which is something we are very happy for.

“Poetizer is a medium. It’s just like paper and radio, so basically you can have different maturity and different quality in poetry. But we are a medium where we let people to decide what they like or don’t like. We don’t want to be the judge of what is good and what is bad.

“But of course we are always happy when we see more and more traditional poets realizing that it’s just another platform to let their poetry be heard in the world.

“And the other group we are reaching out and want to reach out even more in the future are those who are not connected to poetry to show them the beauty of reading it and writing it.”