Books of poetry should be regarded as of the most readable genre of our time. Reader’s attention spans are shorter than they have ever been before; the average person typically will read snippets of text on social media and advertisements throughout the day, but will not sit to read a whole book. technology is changing our reading habits, and poetry offers a reading experience that mimics the way we read, today. Short and simple verses, accompanied by original drawings, is very similar to the way we read through Instagram or Twitter. Quick but effective, Rupi Kaur’s poignant poems keep readers flipping through pages, allowing readers to get lost similar to the way they can loose themselves scrolling through a feed. Her free verse poetry forgoes the difficult metaphors of what we traditionally associate poetry with, in favor of clear, plain language and simplicity. This is the type of book that can be read in a day, and will leave readers returning to it forever.
In 2014, Kaur was infamously banned from Instagram after posting a controversial photograph, in which she is seen lying on a bed with menstrual bloodstained sheets. At the time, the news was filled with stories of women who have had their images — and bodies — censored by the social media platform, receiving Instagram time-outs for inappropriate content, sometimes resulting in a ban of the account and removal of photos. Instagram’s confusing and hypocritically sexist nudity guidelines for what is permissible sparked outrage over banned pictures and accounts, prompting activism across the social network and beyond. But some women, like Kaur, choose to violate these guidelines with purpose and intention. The guidelines, to them, are sexist — period.
“Female nipples” aren’t allowed, unless they’re being used to breastfeed or a photo shows post-mastectomy scarring — and that’s where things get tricky. These caveats put some images in murky territory, leaving policy a bit confusing for users.
She took a stand against Instagram, pointing out the hypocrisy of a platform that hosted sexual images of women yet censored a typical female experience. Followers came in their droves – 1.3 million of them at the last count (though notably she follows no one). “My book would never have been published without social media,” she says. “I wasn’t trying to write a book, it wasn’t even in my vision. I was posting stuff online just because it made me feel relieved – as a way of getting things off my chest.” Lauded by her readers as an authentic, intensely personal writer who isn’t afraid of baring her innermost trauma, she’s considered a much-needed voice of diversity in a literary scene that’s overwhelmingly white.
After the social media controversy, instapoet Rupi Kaur earned herself a space in the bookshelves of millennials and bibliophiles worldwide. Her 2014 self-published debut collection, milk and honey, contained 200 pages of simple poems and line drawings about love and loss, abuse and healing that has sold over a million print copies and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 52 consecutive weeks. Kaur uploaded a series of Instagram posts to announce her forthcoming second poetry collection — the sun and her flowers, was recently released on October 3, by Simon & Schuster.
The Milk and Honey collection tackled tough themes – rape, violence, alcoholism, trauma – written in Kaur’s trademark short, simple verses, published alongside her own original illustrations. The sun and her flowers characteristically follows suit, echoing the form of her first poetry collection. Both are divided into chapters that seemingly break-down the steps the chapters of Milk & Honey were about the healing process, the sun and her flowers is about the growing process.
Posting her work to Instagram keeps the poems accessible; though readers can purchase a copy of the collection, uploading them lets people access the work for free, earning her brownie points and exposure.
The poems in the collections can be broadly divided into two main categories: emotional and empowering. Kaur deals with the pain and joy experienced in familial and romantic relationships, as in:
the way they
i see you
and begin grieving all over again.
She is also popular for her verses that focus on female empowerment and self-esteem, such as this poem published on her Facebook page for International Women’s Day, entitled progress:
our work should equip
the next generation of women
to outdo us in every field
this is the legacy we’ll leave.
The poems are often accompanied by Kaur’s own line drawings, a form that can be traced throughout both her poetry collections:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rupi Kaur is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of two collections of poetry. Born in Punjab, India, Kaur moved with her Sikh family to Toronto when she was four. She loved reading at school, but with English her second language she found it difficult to understand most of the poetry. What she loved was cutting and pasting words and images, or filling up poems with drawings. She started drawing at the age of five when her mother handed her a paintbrush and said—draw your heart out. Rupi views her life as an exploration of that artistic journey. After completing her degree in rhetoric studies she published her first collection of poems milk and honey in 2014. The internationally acclaimed collection sold over a million copies, gracing the New York Times Bestsellers List every week for over a year. It has since been translated into over thirty languages. Her long-awaited second collection ‘the sun and her flowers’ was published in 2017.
Rupi has performed her poetry across the world. Her photography and art direction are warmly embraced and she hopes to continue this expression for years to come. Follow Rupi on instagram and facebook for continuous updates.
Did you like this? Read about Rupi Kaur’s first book of poems, Milk & Honey, here!