Canadian Instapoet and prophetess, Rupi Kaur, is milking her fame for all its worth. Pardon the pun. Her first book, entitled Milk and Honey, sold millions. Just go to SHOP on her website: crop tops for $45, brass pens for $100, self-love card decks, tattoo sets and care cups. (What’s a care cup?)
Having just emerged from a months-long deep dive into the meanderings and motivations of Bob Dylan … no, I’m not comparing Kaur to Dylan for heaven’s sake … it does look like they have something in common: in the undeniable human need to worship – a religion, an ideology, a person – they are both the target figures of this need. The commonality, though, stops there.
Rupi Kaur is a deity. And is it any wonder? Look around you. Who is there to idolize these days? Corrupt and deviant politicians? Sociopathic tech giants who posture as Messiahs? Who are our role models? Our heroes? A large number of public figures we see on our TV screens should be behind bars. We all take refuge, myself included, in literature, films, poetry, songs.
With her simplistic, sparse poems (perfect for Instagram-Twitter-TikTok-Tumblr) and bittersweet storytelling on feminist themes such as misogyny, abuse, womanhood and self-empowerment, Kaur has captured the zeitgeist of the times. Her ardent fan base, predominantly young and female, seek inspiration, consideration, affirmation. And Kaur delivers. She particularly appeals to South Asian women and children of immigrants. From the Punjab region of India, her Sikh father arrived in Canada as a refugee in the early 1990s. Three-year-old Rupi and the rest of her family followed a few years later and settled in Brampton, Ontario, located just north-west of Toronto.
Like e.e. cummings and the American author and social activist, bell hooks, she writes in lower case. But while reading her verses, I noticed something peculiar. Critics claim that Rupi’s work is formulaic, spare and not in the tradition of serious poetry. I found that the brevity and cadence of her lines were eerily similar to Rumi (the 13th century Persian mystic and Sufi poet-scholar.) I went to my bookcase and pulled down my dog-eared book, Rumi: Whispers of the Beloved.
When compassion fills my heart, free from all desire, I sit quietly like the earth. My silent cry echoes like thunder throughout the universe. (RUMI)
When death takes my hand, I will hold you with the other, and promise to find you in every lifetime. (RUPI)
I was nothing, you made me greater than a mountain. My heart was shattered, you healed it. I turned into a lover of Myself. (RUMI)
There are mountains growing beneath our feet that cannot be contained. All we’ve endured has prepared us for this. Bring your hammers and fists, we have a glass ceiling to shatter. (RUPI)
As an aside, if Rumi lived today, he’d be a HUGE social media star. Here’s one of my favorites of his:
There are no signposts in the desert,
caravans are guided by the stars.
In the darkness of despair
hope is the only light.
But in the garden of your life,
never hope that a weeping willow will give you dates.
One can see too a similitude between Rupi Kaur’s style and Kahlil Gibran’s, the famous Lebanese poet –
Out of suffering have emerged,
the strongest souls;
the most massive characters
are seared with scars.
Aside from that, I don’t wish to disparage her. She’s courageous and creative and has dared to tackle taboo subjects such as menstruation, sexual abuse, female bodies, racism, etc. She has put herself “out there” on social media which can be scary, something I don’t think I’d do. Social media has not enriched my life one drop.
To learn more about Kaur and her work, here’s an in-depth article written by Chiara Giovanni entitled The Problem With Rupi Kaur’s Poetry. The milk and honey author’s use of unspecified collective trauma in her quest to depict the quintessential South Asian female experience feels disingenuous.