Source : Times of India
The 25-year-old charming Rupi Kaur is more than just a poet. She is an illustrator, a performer and certainly knows how to establish a deep connect through words alone. She took to Instagram to post her poems along with lovely illustrations and since then there is no looking back for this enigmatic figure! Her poetry form is simple, easy to decipher and touches the hearts instantly, and this makes her poetry accessible and popular in her generation. She has two published books and is currently on tour for the second one. Her recent visit to India garnered a huge response from the literati as well as her social media followers. Here is an excerpt from an exclusive TOI Books Interview with Rupi Kaur.
Tell us how you got started with all of this. Did it start out with writing by yourself? What made you put it online?
It started with a lot of drawing and painting. 9 years ago I went to an open mic and performed and I fell in love with the stage. There was all these people looking up at me and listening and I think I fell in love with that. So I would write. A lot of my earlier work talked about like issues that affected Punjabi Sikh communities where I was living, and also back home in Punjab. So I was writing about female infanticide, farmer suicide, cancer crisis, etc. So my friends insisted I share these in YouTube and Facebook. At that point I was on Tumblrwhere I was sharing my visual work but not my poetry. It took probably about seven years of experimenting online and creating different spaces and exploring through so many different platforms. Even the presentation of the poetry changed so much before it was just published like on a textbook on Tumblr. The night Beyonce dropped her self-titled album, I realised I need to up my game and that’s when I deleted everything from my blog I gave every poem an illustration that night. She changed my life.
Was Instagram a conscious decision? Like switching from blogs and Tumblr to Instagram or did you just move with the social media?
I actually hated Instagram. I thought it was narcissistic and that’s gross… I’m a Tumblr girl. The guy I was seeing then suggested I use Instagram and show my artwork. I started doing it after we broke up. He got livid…and that made me really happy.
Your poetry seems like an effortless flow of thoughts and images that run in your mind. Is that how it is, or do you struggle with them sometimes? Is there editing involved?
There’s a lot of editing involved! If you came to my house you’ll see I have thousands of drafts. I write each poem by hand in a journal. When I go back and I read it, I find some of the gems that stick on to me. I take those and I put them on a word doc and start the editing process. I think like the reason the themes vary so much is because themes present themselves to me and it’s my job, and I’ve always created in that way where I just sort of respond to things that I’m feeling.
In both your collections, the poems depict a painful voice trying to rise from years of trauma and abuse. Was this a cathartic experience for you?
I write about the sort of corrective experience that happens when one has been abused in so many different ways that when something great shows up, you’re not used to it you can’t even see that good and healthy thing as love, because your idea of love is something else completely! So it took me a while to tell myself that I could create a happy place, and keep doing what I’m doing. I think this book proved to me that I can and so I’m always telling people to love yourself and don’t go back and that you can do it! Create from a good place. So writing for me is definitely a cathartic experience and I think that’s why, also, I started to do it as it was just such a release and it was very therapeutic.
Whats the significance of no capital letters or punctuation in your work?
I love balance and the capital letters weren’t really working out for me. It felt like this unhinged thing and I was challenged a lot saying this is ot how Enlgsih works. But I was like “screw English I’ll like write in my own language!” I wrote in Punjabi but it wasn’t working out and that’s when I was thought maybe I can sort of create a language that’s like me. You know– I’m east and west, I’m not one or the other, so why can’t I bring traditions of my language into English? And that’s when I decided I was going to use periods.
Do you feel that Instagram has made poetry more accessible to those who aren’t traditionally literature lovers or intellectuals? Do you think it has shaped your writing as well?
I think it’s defiantly made poetry and reading accessible because so many people that I know have actually told me that because of this, “I bought a book for the first time in 15 years and now I’m going to go buy the books of all these other people”. I don’t think it’s shaped my writing because I arrived at Instagram as the last platform so I had it developed and I stuck with Instagram because it fit what I was already doing.
Your poetry is uninhibited and unapologetic. Do you come across people who might have got uncomfortable by your words?
It made people feel uncomfortable and I was the girl who kept on talking about sexual abuse. Some have thought “She has issues”. But my poetry started conversations by women from all of the world. I’m even very close friends with some of them now. I remember this one woman from Seattle, who left a message on one of my very early pieces. She wrote, “This piece makes me feel like such, this piece makes me feel like a woman”, and the piece was about abuse. And that just pierced my heart, because it’s like the fact that being a woman and feeling like a woman was for some reason was so tied to feeling violated and I could understand that.
Would you be exploring more themes?
For sure! I explore whatever comes along my way and presents itself. I hope to explore more positive things next time!
Oh my god…too soon? I don’t have a date yet. I don’t even know if that’s going to be in in a year… maybe in two, maybe three. I don’t even have time to think about, I mean the book came out in October and I’ve been on tour ever since.