In a society that predominately prefers Netflix to literature, it can be challenging for an author to get their work recognized. This phenomenon holds especially true for poets. Many argue that poetry is becoming an obsolete genre, only known for its generally old-fashioned lexicon and audience.
One poet, however, has defied this stereotype. Rupi Kaur is part of a new generation of young poets who publish their work primarily on social media. Kaur should be celebrated for overcoming the adversity she has faced as an Indian-Canadian poet of Punjabi descent.
Kaur is the author of Milk and Honey and, most recently, The Sun and Her Flowers, both collections of poems, prose and doodles. Milk and Honey has impressively sold over 3 million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 30 languages, according to CBS News.
Although she has certainly made her mark on bookshelves, Instagram is where Kaur ultimately flourishes. The poet unpacks love, sex and relationships in her work, and does not avoid darker topics. Kaur writes frequently about abuse, beauty standards and racism.
Such issues are important to discuss. To readers who can identify with these hardships, praise of this material is a signal that they are not alone and that they are understood.
What is more inspiring about Kaur, however, is the role her culture plays in her success. In today’s society, which predominately favors male representation in media, it is already challenging for white women to have their literature published and this is only amplified for women of color.
Despite this systematic racism, Kaur, with an Indian background, managed to gain an Instagram following of more than 2.4 million followers. Additionally, Milk and Honey is a #1 New York Times bestseller.
Due to these accomplishments, Kaur serves as a powerful figure for women and those of Punjabi descent. She dutifully showcases that individuals in marginalized groups are capable of success.
“When I was designing Milk and Honey, it was so important to see the word ‘Kaur’ right on the spine,” Kaur explained in an interview on CBS News. “I didn’t even want my first name on it. Every Sikh woman has that name, and I want a seven-year-old to go into a bookstore and see her name on a book because I never got that growing up. If she sees that, she’ll be able to see that she can do it too.”
Despite her praiseworthy advocacy for intersectional feminism, Kaur has received backlash from critics who mock her poetic style. Her trademark, fragmented free verse is an easy target.
This mimicry has included posting poems reminiscent of Kaur’s, but with sarcastic undertones, according to The Guardian. “Examples include ‘I wanted / Chick-fil-a / but / you / were / a Sunday morning’ and ‘I understand / why guacamole is / extra / it is because / you / were never / enough,’” as reported by The Guardian.
These critics who cowardly hide behind their screens are demeaning Kaur’s empowering messages. Kaur uses her work to discuss themes that many are afraid to confront. It is not easy to write about sexism, rape, immigration and heartbreak, but Kaur does not allow controversy among those topics to stop her. Her bravery deserves to be commended.
As a young woman of color, Kaur is a literary inspiration. She writes with bravery and wisdom, dismissing any critic whose satirical poems illustrate the contrary. Kaur exemplifies every quality art should be: pure, daring and genuine.