Feminist Hero Friday: Rupi Kaur

Black and white photo via www.rupikaur.com 

Black and white photo via www.rupikaur.com 

by Abaki Beck

This weeks Feminist Hero Friday is the young feminist poet and artist Rupi Kaur. Like many people, I first discovered Kaur’s work on social media. From the first time I read them, I was entranced by Kaur’s writing. She shares her poetry and art on her instagram; bits and pieces of beautiful, filling poems. Her book milk and honey, which was originally self published, is now a New York Times Bestseller. Her poetry explores femininity, trauma, healing, beauty, and love through honest, lyrical writing.

Kaur was born in Punjab, India and grew up in Canada. She began creating art and writing at a young age. She started writing to address trauma and loss, as well as to create evidence of her identity. She notes that

“i read hundreds of books growing up. but none can explain this torment to me. i need access to words written by people who look like me writing about the things i am going through. at that moment i realize the importance of representation and know this must be different for my children. they must have access to their own literature. i write to document we were here.”

Her writing is part of this project to illuminate the power and stories of women of color; it validates and empowers the stories of others like her.

At 17, she began performing spoken word poetry. For years, she performed poetry and published them on blogs. Five years later, she self published milk and honey,  a collection of her poems. She initially self published because one of her creative writing professors said that publication was too difficult, and that there would be no audience for her work. Before putting it together as a book, Kaur submitted her poems to different anthologies and journals, but noted that it didn’t feel authentic for these stories to be separated from one another. She thus became set on self publication, in which she would have total creative control. Her book was put together by 2014. Because of it’s popularity, within a few months it was picked up by a publishing company and re-released.  

In addition to the themes explored in her writing, Kaur integrates her identity in another way as well: the grammar. The gurmukhi script, which is written Punjabi (her mother tongue) does not have upper case versus lower case letters, and the only punctuation used is a period. Her poetry is the same. Though she is not fluent enough to write poetry in Punjabi, she blends her two languages together and preserves aspects of it in her writing. Her heritage is presented both in the stories she tells, and her moyen of storytelling.

Kaur’s work is beautiful, and especially empowering to read for women of color. It feels urgent. It feels necessary. It leaves me full and feeling connected. Below are a few of her poems (and art) from her Instagram. You can follow her here and view her website here.