Title: the sun and her flowers
Author: Rupi Kaur
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Following on from her hugely successful debut poetry collection, milk and honey, first published in 2014, the sun and her flowers was released in October 2017 after a highly anticipated wait. At the young age of 25, Rupi Kaur has emerged as one of the most popular, controversial and, in my opinion, most talented poets and artists in the industry.
“Poetry newbies will be happy to hear that Kaur adopts a very simplistic style with accessible language”
The collection is split into five sections, named ‘wilting’, ‘falling’, ‘rooting’, ‘rising’ and ‘blooming’, therefore Kaur uses the lifecycle of a flower as a metaphor for a journey of self-discovery and self-empowerment. She discusses themes of love, loss, grief, self-abandonment, and femininity, using a free verse form to illuminate her ideas. Poetry newbies will be happy to hear that Kaur adopts a very simplistic style with accessible language, relatable, everyday topics and a clear structure. Even though I am an avid poetry fan, I would argue that the sun and her flowers is the perfect place to start for readers who often find poetry confusing or abstract, or those who think poetry isn’t for them.
The book is designed beautifully, with accompanying black and white illustrations by Kaur herself that help to depict her work. After all, a picture says a thousand words. Despite this, it is much more than just a pretty coffee table book. Kaur’s writing speaks for itself – written in the first person, it is gripping, honest and raw. The collection is a good one to dip in and out of, since although the poems follow on from each other to a certain extent, it isn’t necessary to read them chronologically. Having said that, it’s very easy to read the whole collection in one go (I totally didn’t do this myself).
Kaur uses interesting formatting for her poetry, none of her poems have titles, she never uses punctuation apart from the occasional hyphen, and everything is written in lower case. This feature is a nod to her culture. Kaur is a Canadian-Indian poet and was raised as a Sikh. In the Gurmukhi script, there is only one case used for all letters, therefore this shows her identity. She also utilises italics in some of her poems to highlight certain ideas or present an alternative voice. Therefore, these features reflect Kaur’s meticulous eye for detail.
“milk and honey has sold over 1.5 million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages”
Kaur has had a somewhat unconventional rise to fame and critical acclaim. She began by posting short poems and illustrations on social media sites such as Instagram and Tumblr. She then self-published her first anthology in 2014, and after topping the self-published charts, was picked up by Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2015. milk and honey has sold over 1.5 million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages, showing her commercial success as a writer. Despite this, her poetry is often satirised for its simplicity and has been made into various memes circulating the internet, including the parody collection by Adam Gasiewski and Emily Beck milk and vine.
No matter what the trolls think, in my view Kaur is amongst an influential generation of contemporary poets who have completely changed the game. As a strong-willed, female poet, she is a great role model for young writers, especially those from minority groups. She has helped to bring poetry up to date and into a more mainstream, popular medium directed towards young people. For me, Kaur is an ideal example of someone who isn’t afraid to innovate, change and shape the way we think about poetry, keeping poetry very much alive.
Image courtesy of Sophie Hunt