Rupi Kaur’s poetry is simple, yet vibrant with truth. Her first collection of poems, Milk and Honey, is rich with pain, ardor, and fierce survival. Kaur’s poetry is like the modern embodiment of ancient sage and poet Sappho, with fragment-like thoughts and what poet Olga Broumas terms “lumens”: short, aphoristic, poignant glimpses of an action or an emotion. Here’s an example:
He guts her with his fingers
like he’s scraping the inside of a cantaloupe clean.
I know I should crumble for better reasons
but have you seen that boy he brings
the sun to its knees every night
These are complete poems, often accompanied by Kaur’s drawings. They are unrepentant in their feminism, in their celebration of the female body even as they cower under threatened violence or defy that violence with a laudable sass.
Divided in four sections – the Hurting, the Loving, the Breaking, the Healing – the book changes in mood as she progresses through these stages.
She looks to our collective fathers for this:
He was supposed to be the first male love of your life.
You still search for him everywhere.
But also this:
Every time you tell your daughter
you yell at her out of love
you teach her to confuse anger with kindness
which seems like a good idea until she grows up
to trust men who hurt her cause the look so much like you.
Kaur’s cry for independence and agency, for an end to patriarchal dominance, is not new territory for her. She came to some Internet fame a few months ago for being repeatedly censored on Instagram. She had posted a series of photos about menstrual blood, showing (gasp) bloodstains and the like. The fact that women have periods was apparently too much for the universe, so her photos were taken down, put back up, and taken down again.
thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. the girl is fully clothed. the photo is mine. it is not attacking a certain group. nor is it spam. and because it does not break those guidelines i will repost it again. i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ this image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course. you can view the full series at rupikaur.com the photos were shot by myself and @prabhkaur1 (and no. the blood. is not real.) ⠀⠀⠀⠀
In her accompanying artist statement, Kaur states (sic lowercase):
i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.
Their patriarchy is leaking.
Their misogyny is leaking.
We will not be censored.
Kaur, a writer based in Toronto, travels globally to speak and teach workshops on topics such as trauma and healing while also performing her spoken word poetry. She speaks for the brown woman as well as for all women. Many of her poems address the extra burden that women of color bear:
no books have
the spine to
–Women of colour
All images in post © Rupi Kaur. Cover image via Pixabay.