Here’s a confession. Never in my life have I spent a rupee on a book by Rupi Kaur. But here’s another. I have spent my evening turning pages one after another in bookstores, feeling (some) of her words kissing my wounds; its therapeutic in the true sense. She’s not a great poet, take it from me. Personally, I am not fond of the kind of poetry she does but I have a problem with the hate she is subjected to. I have a problem with the judgments passed on an art form to get the contempt of their own selves out on the internet.
Rupi Kaur, 24, is a poetess who has footed herself in the market and with success. In the book charts that she sits on the top of or be it the time she threw packed shows off her book tour one after another giving all chances of envy to any millennial who has not been living under a rock. In the generation of hyperbole that we live in, we speak in extremes, millions hate this, I love this. Where are the moderates, tell me? Some reasons, maybe?
On her lies the blames like, her writing is petty, it represents the ‘brown sad girl’ in the wrong light, it’s too trivial to strike a chord. But HEY, it millions. To millions of people who connected with her two liners on love, loss, abuse, immigration, and sexuality. She is not one of those poets who will stand against the tides of time, agreed. She is not one of those poets who will be remembered by her prose, agreed. She has zero novelty factor, agreed. The standards set by the ‘society’ of poetry will fail her. But she does not have to live by it. She brings something different to the table. She dresses in Dior and designer attires and does not use punctuation. She writes about the life she has had and in the age of social media and raging opinions we live in, where opening up to your mother is difficult but sharing the same with strangers on the internet seems okay. Who is really to blame, then?
She has the same things to speak that poets do but she does it in her ‘everyday’, ’easy to consume’, ’straight out of the oven’ manner. Something of her own and it has the power(visibly), to open up people, to relate. So, what’s wrong? Isn’t that the whole point of any kind of literature, to be a conversation, In the words of the novelist, Neil Gaiman.
When asked in an interview to PBS in January, that her poems are criticized to be more therapeutic than ‘real’, she said, “No, not really… And it’s because I never really intended to get into the literary world. This is actually not for you. This is for that, like, 17-year-old brown woman in Brampton who is not even thinking about that space, who is just trying to live, survive, get through her day”.
One day when a few friends of mine were chatting over chai. One of my female friends said,” Do you think Rupi Kaur makes any sense, her poems I mean, Is that even a poem? It infuriates me when such people and such talent gets so much attention and popularity”. And I will be honest about my reaction at that moment, I agreed with her and said,” yeah, those are mere Instagram captions, and yet so much success for it”. After a minute, I felt it was very hypocritical of me to say because I actually have spent time reading her stuff and relating to it. It felt good at that moment, reading. I communicated the same. But that hasn’t left me yet. And the backslash which she has been receiving over the internet just adds to it.
I know freedom of speech and free will exist. Also, the copious time you spend on the .internet ‘being busy’ to be tapping alphabets day in and day out. But you need to understand the subjectivity of an art form and Individuality of an artist. A person who is sitting on the shore making notes of the waves will make notes from the place she’s sitting and what all she can she. She won’t go back and front, swim and run and scale the whole measure before jotting down what she ‘feels’ like. What is a prose without the personality of the poet, after al? Virginia Woolf is a good example of the same, her personality came across in her writings.
When British poet Rebecca Watts commented on the success of young women such as Hollie McNish and Rupi Kaur. She says “the new poets are products of a cult of personality”. Let’s not do everything for the sake of having an opinion. Narrowing your hate for a subject to a person is not fair.
This article might sound like I am defending Rupi Kaur but I am not, she does not need it. But, honestly, let her have her cake.