I don’t know what living a balanced life feels like. When I am sad, I don’t cry, I pour. When I am happy, I don’t smile, I glow. When I am angry, I don’t yell, I burn. The good thing about feeling in extremes, is when I love, I give them wings. But perhaps that isn’t such a good thing, cause they always tend to leave and you should see me, when my heart is broken. I don’t grieve, I shatter.
These are some more of my favourites from this amazing book. Sometime, all you need to read is a sentence for it give you reassurance that it’s going to be okay. I hope you find peace if you are restless and find healing if you are hurting.
Obviously, this is free verse, way outside the realm of traditional poetry. But compare Rupi Kaur to someone like Maggie Malloy-
The poem is still simple. There’s still no evident relation between the lines in terms of rhyme schemes or pentameter. But there’s more there.
So, is Rupi Kaur’s work poetry?
The answer, by default, is yes- simply because of the undeniable subjectivity of the term “poetry.”
According to the NTC Dictionary of Literary Terms, poetry is defined as
“Literature in in its most intense, most imaginative, and most rhythmic forms. Poetry differs from prose most basically in being written in lines of arbitrary length instead of in paragraphs. In general, poetry’s richness in imagery, particularly in metaphor, results in a far greater concentration of meaning than is ordinarily found in prose. […] The poets of each generation and their interpreters have had their own definition of poetry, their own sense of what poetry is and what poetry does.”
Moving on to the definition of free verse:
A type of poetry that differs from traditional verse forms in that it is “free” of the regular beat of Meter, depending instead on the individual poet’s sensitivity to the music of natural speech Rhythms. […]
So an argument can be made that Rupi Kaur’s poetry is, in fact, nothing but fake-deep sentences neatly arranged with pretty doodles in the margins.
Still, there’s something that didn’t feel right about that to me. There was undeniably depth to some of Rupi Kaur’s work; and many of her poems could, when I thought about it, evoke some sort of deeper meaning.
The above has a deeper meaning, but it still doesn’t feel like poetry. It feels like an inspirational Tumblr post with too many line breaks. Something like this, however…
has a little something to it, if you think on it.
This has been driving me crazy for the longest time.
From page to page of milk & honey, I alternately felt either that Rupi’s work was barely prose at best or that she was part of a new generation of poets. At the very least, I appreciated people like her bringing “poetry” back into style.
But finally, after reading and rereading milk and honey and the sun and her flowers, I was finally able to put my finger on what it was, exactly, that bothered me about Rupi Kaur’s work.
Rupi Kaur’s poetry relies almost entirely on what you, the reader, bring to it.
There are definitely exceptions, but take, for example, the following:
she was music but he had his ears cut off
It’s something you read once. And if you’ve got enough imagination, you can connect something to it. You can draw the conclusion that this implies the girl’s attempts at a relationship and that he refused to listen; you can infer that he’d suffered too much trauma to fully appreciate her.
But there’s no inherent meaning to it. It’s all guesswork. It leaves so many loose ends open that those who don’t think of it too critically can undoubtedly find meaning and inspiration within it.
Rupi Kaur’s poetry, in my opinion, may technically be poetry, but it isn’t particularly good poetry, because there’s often nothing to analyze. There are multiple interpretations, to be sure, but any good analysis is a conversation between the poet and the analyst. To analyze Rupi Kaur’s poetry is to be briefly shouted at over the phone and to desperately try and construct a conversation out of those few words.
As a final note and disclaimer: regardless of any opinions on Rupi Kaur, the intention should never be to gate-keep literature.
Never, in the history of the world, has that ended well.