A friend of mine is a photographer or, as he puts it, an artist who uses photography. He’s also a professor, and I asked him recently if he finds it difficult to teach undergraduates. “Yes,” he said, “because photography doesn’t have to be art.” Unlike easel painting or classical ballet, photography is a fixture of the everyday world. It is ubiquitous: we see photographs on billboards, at bus stops, on social media. The photograph, in other words, is so closely linked to advertising that the ad seems not just to appropriate the image but to preempt it. Every picture wants to be worth a thousand clicks.

Compare that observation to something the poet Eileen Myles said in 2015 in The Paris Review: “It’s really hard to figure out what’s poetry and what’s a tweet at this time.” Photography doesn’t have to be art, and words—even those that, as Myles says, “notate a vivid, fleeting experience”—don’t have to be poetry. But how to tell the difference? If the Web-based explosion of images has depleted our ability to distinguish visual art from marketing or promotion, the Internet’s hunger for content in the form of first-person narrative—highly condensed, written in an oblique yet evocative style, anchored in feeling, and built on a fiction of intimacy between authors and their audiences—has surely affected how we evaluate poems.

Anahid Nersessian, “Transmissions from Another World”