eeeeeeeek. talking abt rupi kaur (again)

I think at least once a semester I have to vent about Rupi Kaur for the sake of my mental health. So, here you go.

This video was suggested to me on YouTube and, out of curiosity, I watched it. I’m familiar with Rupi Kaur’s work, and I have a lot of respect for her given the poetic success she’s had at such a young age as a woman of color. Generally speaking, poetry does not exist at the forefront of culture, and yet she’s figured out how to make a healthy living off of it. This is evidenced alone by the fact that she’s reading a poem on The Tonight Show.

The thing is, when I hear/read her poems, I just kind of get mad. They’re clearly formulated for the sake of being posted and reposted on social media, and generally just for easy consumption. I like poems that make you work at least a little bit, but Kaur’s poems are digestible and effortless. They’re easy.

Although I guess it’s nice to see the public reading poetry in any capacity, I find this particularly frustrating as I have a difficult time even recognizing Kaur’s work as poetry. To me, it feels more like a sort of modernized inspirational office poster than it does poetry.

I won’t get into this too much, because this is beginning to stray away from Kaur’s poetics, but I also fundamentally disagree with some of the things she says in her work. For example, these three poems:

  1. how you love yourself is / how you teach others / to love you
  2. you must enter a relationship / with yourself / before anyone else
  3. you must / want to spend / the rest of your life / with yourself / first

First of all, these three poems are all the same poem. Second of all, this is kind of a damaging, albeit good-intentioned, ideal; if you do not love yourself, you are undeserving of love from another. But the themes of self-love and female empowerment/independence are trendy right now, hence why this poem was written. I think Kaur wrote this because she knew it would sell, and not necessarily because she genuinely subscribes to this ideal.

I’m curious as to what other people’s thoughts are on this, especially if those thoughts are pro-Kaur. Are there any poets who like Kaur’s poetry, or is it just poetry for the non-poet?


2 Replies to “eeeeeeeek. talking abt rupi kaur (again)”

  1. I admittedly used to be a fan, but as I discovered more genres of poetry/started to find my own voice, I thought that her poetry seemed bare bones but not for any real reason, and it only really seems to appeal to teenage girl’s Tumblr posts and later Insta stories. Even though I am her target demographic, a teenage girl, I don’t resonate with her poems the same way that I do with others. I have also heard several accusations of plagarism coming her way, which has kind of soured me to her, but lately I’ve taken those with a grain of salt. I also know so many people who have the same issues you do with her, so this might not be a controversial opinion anymore!

  2. Natalie,
    Thank you for addressing this. I have mixed feelings about Rupi Kaur. Like you, in some ways I’m glad she’s come to the public scene as a woman of color who discusses intimate topics, especially sex and love. In addition, reading her work is easy and light and quick. On the other hand, though, it feels “thin” to me and multiple readings of her poems don’t reward me so I see no reason to return to them.
    In terms of theme, I agree that some of her work actually feels problematic to me and I think that not everyone would agree with her conceptions of loving yourself and others. In sum, I appreciate how Kaur is opening people up to poetry, but I wouldn’t say that her work particularly speaks to me.

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