Recently I read this Guardian article by Priya Khaira-Hanks that speaks about the controversy surrounding Rupi Kaur as an “instapoet” who has supposedly lowered the bar when it comes to the quality of publishable poetry. Kaur’s poetic style is often parodied with the intended implication being that anyone could write such simple, mundane lines. Despite this criticism, Khaira-Hanks asserts that Kaur presents an important and underrepresented voice in our modern world of poetry, saying at the end of the article:
As a young woman of colour in a world where white, male delectations are treated as the definitive barometer of taste, Kaur speaks a truth that the literary establishment is unlikely to understand. Even the most sincere critique of her work can slide from healthy debate into vicious attack at the turn of a page. But to read Kaur’s success as an omen of the death of poetry would be to unfairly dismiss writing that contains bravery, beauty and wisdom. Frankly, the literary world is saturated with white male voices of dubious quality. Kaur’s poetry should be given the same freedom to be flawed.
After reading Kaur’s second published poetry collection titled The Sun and Her Flowers, I’m inclined to agree with the Guardian article. Kaur’s poems are not perfect, yet I believe that is precisely the point: they are not perfect and neither are those who read them. I admire Kaur’s poetry not because it demonstrates a mastery of poetic form or follows conventional poetic traditional; rather, I keep returning to her words because they’re true. Genuine. Raw. Honest. Real.
Kaur once gave a TEDtalk called “I’m Taking My Body Back” in which she discussed how she began writing poetry as a means of survival in the tumultuous aftermath of abuse. Listening to her speak about her trauma adds another layer of depth and emotion to her work. Suddenly those short, seemingly simple snippets of verse (“what is stronger / than the human heart / which shatters over and over / and still lives”) take on greater meaning and significance in the context of someone’s actual experiences. I know that I find solace and comfort in her words because they are so undeniably human in their capacity to feel. Those moments of clarity when you finally feel as though someone else understands what you’re going through are abundant in Kaur’s work– perhaps this is why readers continue to support this (to use her flower analogy) blossoming young poet.
At times The Sun and Her Flowers so closely resembles her first collection Milk and Honey that I probably would only be able to recognize a handful of poems by sight from each. I would have liked to see a little bit more experimentation with form (more than the long paragraph poems); however, I did appreciate the vivid flower analogy that ties the entire collection together quite nicely. This collection felt repetitive to me, especially following Milk and Honey. Personally, I hope that she branches out a bit more if she publishes a third collection in the future.
Overall, Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers is an emotional, beautiful, thought-provoking collection of poetry. Although Milk and Honey remains my favorite of her collections, I nevertheless look forward to reading whatever poetry she continues to share with us readers in the future. I would highly recommend this collection even if you haven’t read anything by Kaur before!
What are your thoughts on The Sun and Her Flowers or any of Rupi Kaur’s other poetry? Have any recommendations for other poets I should check out? Let me know in the comments section below!