We were fortunate enough to catch up with Rupi Kaur, a New York Times Bestselling author and illustrator who is taking the poetry world by storm. Her books, Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers compile the author’s raw, emotional and unapologetic insights, which have inspired readers all over the world.
You’re so open and honest in your poetry, has there ever been a time you’ve been hesitant to publish something that is too sensitive or painful to revisit?
It’s always very scary to watch people respond to your work. I think it has caused some of the most anxiety I have felt in recent years. It’s undressing yourself and standing in front of a crowd. Folks have been so kind. However, you’re always terrified of that one person who might throw something at you. I’ve learned to understand and manage this much better.
Living inside my body felt like screaming a silent scream. I would find empty rooms, pillows, elevators - to scream into. No matter how loud the screams were it always still felt silent. I don’t know why I shared my work. I honestly have no idea what possessed me to do such a thing. If you knew me back then, I would be the last person to share something so personal. I think perhaps I did it because I needed that scream to be heard. So even though it can be scary, it is also necessary for me.
What advice would you give to your younger self or any girl for staying true to yourself in the age of Instagram?
Social media is just a platform/medium and the world makes what it wants of it. It has created echo chambers and amplified hate speech while also creating collaborative communities who use the platform to articulate global voices for resistance and protest. As a result, it is contradictory in many ways.
In the same ways that it depersonalizes our interactions with the world, it also facilitates very visceral attacks. For me, coping and using it in a healthy way means answering a set of fluid questions. These include things like: what’s my purpose to using this? Do I want to use it to share my work? Interact with friends and family? Once you always honestly answer those questions and not allow life to be dictated by the platform, then you can stay balanced in who I am.
Tell us about your most memorable interaction with a reader or supporter of your work.
I don't think I can name just one! I feel very, very blessed to have such a strong readership. It is tremendous and I am in awe each day. The universe is sending a lot of messages through me in the form of poetry and I am just the messenger. I will continue to stay honest and truthful, so that I can continue to honour that.
Which organizations or non-profits are you passionate about and why?
I'm passionate about any organizations and non-profits helping to uplift women, children, and the environment. It's hard to pick really, because there's so much injustice happening in our world in almost every area and we need to spread our attention to all causes.
How did you decide to start writing?
Writing poetry was cathartic for me. Through the act of writing I was able to soothe my soul. I answered difficult questions by constructing poetry. It was a natural reminder to myself that meant no matter how difficult a situation is - I will overcome.
So as a child who read obsessively, I naturally began to write little poems from a young age. But it wasn’t till middle school that I began to write poetry. I would write for friends on their birthdays, or for boys I had crushes on. In high school, poetry became a political act. I wrote about what I felt was wrong in the world and what I wanted to change. In university, I began to do a lot more reflection.
How have you dealt with any backlash about writing personal/sensitive material?
My art, especially the “Period.” photo series resulted in death threats. But perhaps the worst is when the assertion is made that I do not have the right to write the experiences that I write of.
I think the worst personal criticism is when I internalize many of the critiques and comments about me. I think I’ve been very fortunate to have a positive support system rooted in friends and family who made a point of grounding and protecting me from a lot of this.
Your work has inspired so many to begin writing their own poetry, what would you tell a young writer who admires your work and wants to begin their own career?
I’m the type to bury pain somewhere really deep inside. A place I’ve never ventured and keep it there. Hidden. After the burial I go and bury myself in my work. Writing is facing the pain. Disregarding is not healing. You have to explore to heal I think. After I wrote Milk and Honey, I very much felt “healed”. I thought I’d reached the destination. The purpose of Milk and Honey - to heal me - was complete. In the months that followed - when I was relentlessly triggered - there was a huge learning experience. The work of writing and healing isn’t a destination. It is something to consistently work on. The journey will allow you to forgive yourself.
Change the language you use to speak to yourself. Truly believe that you are the revolution you need. Believe that you are the most powerful thing in your life - that with your mind you can bring any change to your life. Practice mindfulness and be grateful. Remember that the writing is a journey - it will take you to a balanced place where healing lives.
What is/are your guilty pleasures?
Binge watching shows and shopping!
Do you have any secret talents?