Rupi Kaur is a worldwide phenomenon who has perhaps single-handedly exposed more people to the immense emotion of poetry than anyone else since the turn of the twenty-first century. Many recent stories about her work talk about her as an "Instagram poet" with, from my perspective, equal parts bewilderment and snootiness, but her terse, beautiful words have reached far beyond social media.
Kaur's first volume of poetry, milk and honey, launched her to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Today, a few weeks after its publication, the sun and her flowers sits at #2 on the New York Times' combined print and e-book fiction list, just below a little-known author named Dan Brown.
The Amazon Books editors chose the sun and her flowers as one of October's best books of the month--the only volume of poetry to have gained that distinction in several years. As we said in our review: "Those who pressed milk and honey into the hands of their friends will exult in the sun and her flowers, and Kaur’s expanded wisdom and scope should reel in new readers who will find much that resonates."
We spoke with Kaur about her new book, her other creative projects, and what poems her readers are gravitating towards.
Amazon Book Review: What do you think that readers of milk and honey are going to be surprised by when they read the sun and her flowers?
Rupi Kaur: Perhaps that I am touching on so many more themes in the sun and her flowers than I did in milk and honey. The sun and her flowers is also a lot longer than milk and honey. I've grown so much as a person and a writer since writing milk and honey so I feel like it's a lot more mature.
I heard you read a version of the poem that begins, “they convinced me / I had only a few good years left” (p. 234) when you were in Seattle earlier this year, and it made me want to give that poem to every woman I know. Are there poems in the sun and her flowers that other readers are calling out as their favorites?
So far on tour I think people have been loving the ones where I reference and interact with nature. Page 169:
i could not contain myself any longer
i ran to the ocean
in the middle of the night and confessed my love for you to the water
as i finished telling her
the salt in her body became sugar
And from page 176:
i told the flowers
what i’d do for you
and they blossomed
I think these pieces are just fun and flirty.
Are there poems that you especially enjoy reading?
The ones I mentioned above, and a lot of the ones about my parents in chapter 3, "blooming."
There’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with a book becoming a bestseller, and that pressure is redoubled when it’s a debut as well. How did you cope with that pressure while writing the sun and her flowers so that you could focus on being creative?
That pressure made the sun and her flowers so difficult to write. It debilitated me for a long time. It took me about a year to block out the pressure. And I just had to tell myself: "There is no failure. Nothing matters. Your job is to write what's most honest to you and the rest is not unto you."
Can you tell me about your first time you read your poems to an audience?
It was in 2009. It was at a local open mic night happening in Malton, a subdivision of the city of Mississauga, in Canada. Ninety-eight percent of the people in the room were men. All about eight to ten years older than me. I was terrified. But the moment I got up there, closed my eyes, and began reciting, I fell in love. With the way the mic picked up my voice and allowed it to echo throughout the entire room. And since then I've never stopped.
What advice do you have for new poets?
Write every day. Practice practice practice. That will help you refine your craft.
Aside from your writing, what are you passionate about? And what are you working on now?
I love photography and film and design. I would love to take a few years off to practice documentary photography.
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