Saturday 17 February 2018

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Basically I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I knew that Kaur was an Instapoet success with millions of followers which had spawned two books of poetry and invitations to numerous writer's festivals around the world. I knew she appealed to young people and that she was single-handedly turning them onto poetry. Our languishing poetry section at work was actually getting a work out for the first time in a long time, thanks to the requests for her two books.

I also knew that there was some debate about whether or not Kaur actually wrote poetry or not.

I am not a poetry expert in any way shape or form. I have enjoyed some poets and their works over the years because they move me or their elegant use of language blows my mind or the describe something familiar in such a new and novel way that I see something old and known in a completely different way. And I can see how Kaur's work would and could do this for many, many people.

She speaks simple truths, aphorisims even, about being female. Kaur explores relationships, love, sex and belonging. Her work often delves into darker themes of abuse, self-abuse, break-ups, depression, loss, grief, the beauty myth, difference, the immigrant experience and racism.

There is nothing difficult about her writing style, although her lack of capitals does my head in (showing my age I know!) Most of the pieces are like the one above. Brief pieces of advice illustrated by Kaur - a perfect Instagram post - that reaches and touches her target audience.

In The Sun and Her Flowers, Kaur has a few longer pieces that could be called observational poetry. Thankfully, I'm past a lot of the angst that Kaur writes about, but her words brought much of it racing back. All that insecurity, indecision and apprehension mixed with wild hope and bittersweet moments. False starts and wrong turns and so much time wasted worrying abut stuff that you can't change.

A part of me wishes I could go back and tell my younger self and all these young women that this is just a phase of life that passes. It feels like forever, but it's not. It feels like for keeps, but it's not.

But I don't, I can't, because everyone has to work that out for themselves in their own way.

Reading the words of someone who is in the middle of all that, helps me see the journey of my own life and makes me grateful to be long past all that. Middle age is not without it's own angst, but it's tempered by experience, maturity and growth. What seemed so important at twenty or thirty is no longer of concern at fifty. Other things take over. I'm sure my seventy year old self will smile wryly at the worries of my fifty year old self one day.

That's how it goes.

And that's what was missing from this collection of poems and aphorisms for me. A sense of future. A sense of perspective. The big picture. Reflection.

Kaur gives us a snapshot of a moment, a detail of now. Her voice is authentic, accepting and lyrical. I can see the appeal. And she's turning a generation onto the idea of poetry, nothing wrong in that at all.


  1. What makes poetry tick?
    Sometimes growing older it feels like the best time of my life.
    What brought tears to my eyes (arguments, prob with in-laws, divorce) then
    only bring me the feeling that I've experienced life and its ups and downs.
    Perhaps this appeal that young people feel with this book is that
    it is a place where for a few moments they can at feel protected and acknowledge
    in all that is going on in their lives.
    A poem brings the reader into a ‘poetic state of mind’...
    it is something close to dreaming while you are awake!
    Thanks for the very thoughtful review...loved it.

    1. Thank you Nancy.

      You're right, that sense of feeling protected and acknowledged at that age is VERY important, but I also think it's important to know that this phase, is just a phase and that this time will pass. It was through reading prose and verse, that I was able to hold onto that thought during some of my more particularly angsty times!

      Kaur certainly writes her work in a 'poetic state of mind' - I like that phrase a lot - that's when you know you've found a poet that speaks to you - when you respond to their awake dreaming with that ah-ha moment yourself.

  2. My teenaged daughter has bought one of her books - the first poetry she's bought for herself. There is value in that however you view the 'quality' - something I'm definitely not qualified to comment on.

    1. That's what excites me about Kaur and Instapoetry - it engages a whole new audience and turns a new generation onto reading poems.


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