When wandering downtown a few weeks after our move, we were inspecting the headline acts announcement on the Moody Theater wall when a name caught my eye: Rupi Kaur 22nd October 2018. Excitement took hold, there was no question: I had to go. It was slightly nerve wracking as I was worried that she would not be how I imagined. An avid instagram stalker, I had a rough idea but online presence can be very misleading. I had also never attended a poetry reading and was unsure what to expect, would the words spoken aloud create the same comfort as when read? Is there an etiquette? Do we clap at the end of each reading? Silly questions, but nerves kicked in and they played on my mind.
Despite the nerves, the evening was everything I had wanted and more. Rupi came across as a bubbly, friendly woman with a strong sense of who she is. The poems were spell binding when read aloud and the atmosphere in the audience was one of support and love. The delicate illustrations projected behind her were fascinating. Mike had to check I was okay because I did not speak for the whole evening, but there were just no words! In a time when we are striking each other down, it was exceptional to be a part of lifting one another up. I also picked up a beautiful hardcover of her new book “The Sun and her Flowers”. A successful evening!
I recognise that Rupi is often criticised for not being “real” literature and many are concerned that she has not spent the time studying beneath the greats. Some have even hailed her the “death of poetry”. However, what is art? If it encourages young people to embrace poetry, if it speaks to them in a way that they understand, then surely whether she is a “great” should not matter. In my personal opinion, I enjoy her work and found it encouraged me to explore the art of others, maybe some of the greats that have been mentioned in these critiques. Embracing something new does not mean that we shun the old. Often times, I do not understand contemporary art and criticise it, but I do not question it’s right to be. Can we not extend this freedom to Kaur?
On a final note, her poems, though short and “instagram worthy”, tackle a plethora of issues which many associate with strongly today: immigration, misogyny, beauty standards, heartbreak, love. Not every one is a masterpiece, but every one is a truth. I find her a refreshing voice, and commend that she has stood her ground, despite the mocking, and continued her work. It is wonderful to see a strong female voice succeed in a world that tells her she shouldn’t.