November 12, 2021

Who Is Rupi Kaur?

A friend who is not a poet or a poetry reader asked me what I thought of the poet Rupi Kaur. I said I had never heard of her/him. She said she was surprised. "I saw her on TV and she has sold millions of books and hits the New York Times best-seller list." 

I had to find out more. 

Rupi Kaur by Baljit Singh.jpg
Image by Baljit Singh - rupi kaur inc., CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Rupi Kaur is an Indian-born Canadian poet, illustrator, photographer, and author. Born in Punjab, India, Kaur immigrated to Canada at a young age with her family. She is 29. 

She began performing poetry in 2009 and got popular on Instagram, eventually becoming one of the most popular "Instapoets." She has three collections of poetry.

After completing her degree in rhetoric studies she self-published her first collection of poems milk and honey in 2014 and it sold more two million copies and was on the NYT's bestseller list every week for over a year. It has been translated into over thirty languages. Her second collection the sun and her flowers was published in 2017 and debuted as a #1 NYT bestseller. 

Performance and social media savvy is a big part of her popularity. She has performed her poetry across the world and she is also known for her illustrations, design and art direction.

Bestsellers and poetry are not usually connected. Fame for poets can be both a plus and a minus. Popular poets are often dismissed as less than serious writers.

Her poetry has been described as "bite-size, accessible poems. Their free verse poetry eschews difficult metaphors in favor of clear, plain language."

On Wikipedia: "Her popularity has been compared to that of a popstar and Kaur has been praised for influencing the modern literary scene, although Kaur's poetry has had mixed critical reception and been subject to frequent parody; she has been dogged by claims of plagiarism by fellow "Instapoets" and harassment by internet trolls. Kaur has been included on congratulatory year-end lists by the BBC and Elle; The New Republic controversially called her the "Writer of the Decade"."

Rupi Kaur talks to Jimmy Fallon about how she went from self-published student poet to the top of the New York Times and reads a poem from her second collection, The Sun and Her Flowers. In this clip from The Tonight Show, she performs one of her poems. 

How many contemporary poets can you name who have appeared on any morning or late night TV shows or who have a film of them performing with a trailer, promotion, set designers, lighting and costume changes? Rupi Kaur Live' is an independent debut film of hers that was described as "stand-up poetry." 

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