Poetry has been long criticized for not appealing to the masses but I tend to disagree. Poetry can be a very unique voice in the world of words. Sometimes there are rigid and forced rules and other times, poets reject all forms of rules and write freely. One thing poetry is or at least should be to all people is voice. A voice to condemn. A voice to praise. A voice to lament and a voice to share joy.
During my university days I indulged in poetry as often as my timetable would allow. Although some of the courses I signed up for were compulsory, many were not. I loved and still love the language of poetry. I had forgotten that until recently.
Rupi Kaur is a Canadian woman of Punjabi descent who has rocked the literary world with her debut book of poems called milk and honey. How sweet it was as I flowed through each page pausing and absorbing this woman’s voice. The writing was lovely yet some of the poems were jarring and gave me pause as I murmured in agreement with the poems and their meanings. It is not a book for everyone as the subject matter can be difficult — abuse, love and loss, violence and feminism. And yet it is so necessary in our #metoo world to hear this poet’s fresh voice.
Evidently some literary purists have decided that Kaur is not a poet at all but I weep for them because they do not know what they are missing by ignoring this voice. She paints with her words lovely and raw images of what it is like to be in a relationship both healthy and not. She paints with those same words depression and sadness yet offers us light.
Kaur’s follow-up to the best-selling milk and honey is a beautiful collection called the sun and her flowers. I ear-marked many pages in this book of poetry. Parts of the book are clear declarations of her love for her mother but she also writes about loss and trauma as well as all forms of love. One of my favourites in this collection is about time.
“…life does not stop for anybody / it drags you by the legs / whether you want to move forward or not / that is the gift…”
As Kaur writes, she gives a message of resilience and strength. That we are more than we think we are. Her poetry offers hope in a world of much despair. the sun and her flowers is a great anthology separated into parts that include: “wilting”, “falling”, “rooting”, “rising” and “blooming”. The flower(s) becomes this beautiful metaphor for her poetry and her exploration of self.
So I give thanks to Rupi Kaur for re-awakening the word-lover in me for I had forgotten she was there. Will I still return to the classics like Wordsworth, Shelley, Browning and Keats in my well-worn 2652 page Norton Anthology of English Literature – The Major Authors that I lugged around campus all those years ago? Yes I will but I will keep my eyes wide open for those new voices that have been calling my name. It’s time I heard them.