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Inspiring Thursday: Rupi Kaur

“what is the greatest lesson a woman should learn

that since day one
she’s already had everything she needs within herself
it’s the world that convinced her she did not”
― Rupi Kaur, the sun and her flowers

Rupi Kaur (1992), is an Indian-born millennial poet who emigrated to Toronto, Canada when she was a child. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Waterloo. Kaur gained her reputation as a contemporary poet with her collections of short prose milk and honey along with the sun and her flowers which sold for more than 2 million copies combined worldwide and translated into over thirty languages. Her pieces explore a variety of themes from love and sex to trauma, healing, femininity, identity and family relationships.

Her progressive debut began in 2013 when Kaur started sharing her work on Tumblr and later Instagram. “My book would never have been published without social media,” Kaur said. The acclaimed author is also known for her feminist statements. While attending college, Instagram censored a self-portrait she had posted for a photography school project where she was lying in bed with menstrual bloodstains on her sweatpants and sheets. She took the opportunity to criticize the platform´s hypocrisy for regularly posting highly sexual pictures of women and yet blacklisting a typical female experience.

milk and honey is an extremely poignant and personal set of poetic statements. The title comes from previous a poem she wrote about widows during the Sikh genocide that happened in India in 1984 which describes the change in the women as “smooth as milk and as thick as honey”. milk and honey is sectioned into four chapters, each dealing with a specific struggle (the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing). Kaur´s trademark is her short simple yet powerful verses which are punctuated by her own illustrations.

“you treat them like they
have a heart like yours
but not everyone can be as
soft and as tender

you don’t see the
person they are
you see the person
they have the potential to be

you give and give till
they pull everything out of you
and leave you empty.”
― Rupi Kaur, milk and honey

The leading Ínsta Poet has earned many recognitions including the 2017 BBC 100 Women Award and in 2019 she was commissioned by the prominent printing house Penguin Classics to write an introduction for a new edition of Khalil Gibran´s The Prophet. She also hosted her own Ted Talk “I´m taking back my body”.

Kaur´s intricate poetry stands out as being unconventionally honest. “I want to put words to feelings we have trouble putting into words. Like the breath before the kiss, I want to make the mundane beautiful”, she said in an interview with Huffpost.

Rupi Kaur´s authenticity has been contested and some have even bashed her writing as a being misrepresentation of the South Asian female experience. Providing a biased opinion, it seems fair to say that although there are many talented authors with similar stories, Kaur makes an honest effort to verbalize the hardships of being an immigrant woman of color in a predominantly western and patriarchal environment.

Written by Claire Davis, WAVE Intern

Sources

Giovanni, Chiara. The problem with Rupi Kaur´s Poetry. Buzz Feed. 2017. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/chiaragiovanni/the-problem-with-rupi-kaurs-poetry

Spencer, Erin. Rupi Kaur: The Poet Every Woman needs to Read. Huffpost. 2015.https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-poet-every-woman-needs-to-read_b_6193740?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGmxnmua5pN45ISmXR8JjQ8eBIC1dbw-VTTf6Zn3Z5ao_PldVqxpFJ1NHidsDDogMAqYhsgymoRqimwvFnRtWep5H3z-wzFKOzKGi-WHjyXmix2e-waLGVnGzZA9oQCFP_rJK69KLQiyGLhWdRC3PJcRDk9E0LeBKz9QPSxKWLpc

Rupi Kaur. People Pill. https://peoplepill.com/people/rupi-kaur/

Rupi Kaur Website. 2017. https://rupikaur.com/about/

Walker, Robert. The young ‘Instapoet’ Rupi Kaur: from social media star to bestselling writer. The Guardian. 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/27/rupi-kaur-i-dont-fit-age-race-class-of-bestselling-poet-milk-and-honey

Zing Tseng. Why Instagram censored this image of an artists on her period. 2015. https://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/24258/1/why-instagram-censored-this-image-of-an-artist-on-her-period