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In Conversation With Rupi Kaur

Hemalatha Sridhar

On the 27th of January, the celebrated Canadian Panjabi poet, Rupi Kaur, enthralled her delighted audience when she performed her powerful, sentimentally-charged poetry with extreme earnestness and enthusiasm at the Kolkata Literary Meet. A poet eternally employing free verse, her spoken poetry too, mirrored an organic flow of thought, just like her written haphazard yet lyrical verses. She performed a few out of her multitude of poems, which are on various subjects, both topical and subjective. She serenaded the audience with her soothing, almost incantatory style of narration, expressing her thoughts on topics, chiefly those involving women, love, sex, aging, and societal impositions on notions of beauty which she believes should be a fluid and personal conception. She also performed poems composed for and about her mother, whom she describes as deeply affectionate, and a strong influence in her life.

The performance was followed by a conversation with Jash Sen, where Rupi Kaur’s inspirations were discussed. On being asked whether she saw herself as a “pop” artist rather than a folk poet, Kaur responded saying that the richness of her poignant poetry stems from all the kirtans, Sikh poetry and folk songs she was subject to as a child. She elaborated upon this comment by saying that her poetry cannot be judged through a Western lens, for its intensity will be lost. The Sikh culture is deeply rooted within her being, and percolates into her poetry, making her define herself as a folk poet, who is also deeply subjective. Kaur revealed that she got the courage to write because she had a group of friends, who were all immigrants, creating a safe space for her to express herself. Her poetry too, is largely confessional in style, owing to this feeling of being accepted in a world where she struggled to find herself.

The young Instagram-sensation awed all with her maturity and humility. Her poetry is economical in the number of words she employs, but conveys something vaster than a few brief verses, indicating her skill and artistry. She says she uses the lower-case style when writing to bridge the gap between her oriental heritage and her occidental locale of residence, making her a distinctly Indian poet, despite her western living. The charming illustrations alongside her works make her poetry even more eclectic. Her unique representation of commonplace ideas makes her works even more alluring to readers young and aged, as proved by the interesting talk. One should pick up copies of ‘Milk and Honey’ and ‘The Sun and Her Flowers’ to know more.