Friday Poem: Rupi Kaur
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By now, you’ve probably already heard of Rupi Kaur – which is no mean feat in an age where poets feels like endangered species.
The Canadian poet, writer, and illustrator of Indian descent has been wildly popular in the past decade, especially on social media. She is the figurehead of the Instapoet trend, updating her various social media channels regularly with short, emphatic poems that generate thousands of likes.
In 2014, Kaur self-published her first poetry collection, milk and honey, on Amazon and, after the book proved immensely popular, it was published professionally in 2015 to immediate success. It climbed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and remained there for an impressive 52 weeks. Now, it has sold over a million copies.
As well as being the most widely read poet of our time, she is also one of the most highly criticised. Her work has become the target of relentless satire, especially on platforms such as Twitter, with users accusing her of lacking authenticity or talent.
This new rupi kaur poetry book is incredible pic.twitter.com/kQwRrsSULR— ⌘ Nat ⌘ (@LeftAtLondon) June 16, 2017
More seriously, she has been accused by the likes of Chiara Giovanni, writing for Buzzfeed in August, for her problematic appropriation of the South Asian female experience. She writes: “While more female South Asian voices are indeed needed in mainstream culture and media, there is something deeply uncomfortable about the self-appointed spokesperson of South Asian womanhood being a privileged young woman from the West who unproblematically claims the experience of the colonized subject as her own, and profits from her invocation of generational trauma.”
However, as true as these points both are – her style is overly simplistic and her desire to profit from collective trauma is worrying – she has provided millions of readers with a new and accessible form of poetry from a diverse, anti-elitist voice that speaks to their experiences.
This week, thousands chose to post Kaur’s work on social media for Mental Health Awareness Day. It is clear that her work has comforted many who are experiencing mental health issues and has aided their process of healing. It’s easy to be cynical about her poetry – but its power to help those who are suffering is commendable.
Likewise, her simplistic style is introducing poetry to new audiences. Speaking to The Guardian, she writes: “I don’t want someone to read my poetry and think: what does that mean? So every time I’m writing, I’m thinking: OK, what word can I take out? How do I make this more direct? What’s too technical?”
The article cites Kaur as one of the key factors contributing to the rise of poetry in the literary marketplace. Sales of poetry books are up 13% and more than a million were sold last year, which is the highest number on record. We cannot account Kaur solely for this, but there’s no doubt that she has been an influential factor.
Last week, Rupi Kaur released her second poetry collection, the sun and her flowers. We are yet to know whether her sophomore book will be as successful as her last, but one thing is clear: Rupi Kaur is the most popular poet of our generation and, like it or not, her work is slowly bringing back a dying art form from the brink of extinction. And, for that, she must not be ignored.
Take a look at some of her work below.
page 173 from #thesunandherflowers this piece is the first and oldest in this collection. written in nov 2014 immediately after the release of 'milk and honey'. i was deeply inspired by the way parts of nature worshipped one another. it reminded me of how humans fall maddeningly in love with one another. the way these flowers rose and fell with the appearance of the sun reminded me how someone can have us so hooked that our entire emotional mental and physical state rises and falls with their acceptance of us. this is the piece/thought that inspired both the title and premise of this entire book.
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