Full name – Rupi Kaur
Age – 28 years
Nationality – Canadian
“You do not just wake up and become the butterfly, growth is a process”
– Rupi Kaur
As a 21-year-old university student Rupi wrote, illustrated and self-published her first poetry collection, milk and honey. Next came its artistic sibling, the sun and her flowers. These collections have sold over 8 million copies and have been translated into over 42 languages. Rupi’s work touches on love, loss, trauma, healing, femininity, migration whilst making her straightforward poetry a global sensation.
Kaur was born into a Sikh family in Punjab, India. She immigrated to Canada with her parents when she was four years old. Her father worked as a truck driver and her family eventually settled in Brampton. She was inspired by her mother to draw and paint. She continued her art into her teens, but at age seventeen, she shifted her focus to writing and performing. She attended Turner Fenton Secondary School, before studying rhetoric and professional writing at the University of Waterloo.
Kaur notes her first performance to be in the basement of the Punjabi Community Health Centre in Malton around 2009. Throughout her high school, Kaur shared her writing anonymously. From 2013 onward, she began sharing her work under her own name on Tumblr before taking to Instagram in 2014, in which she also started adding simple thematic illustrations. Kaur’s first book, an anthology titled milk and honey, was self-published on Createspace on 4 November 2014. Her inspiration for the book’s name came from a past poem which included a line about women surviving terrible times. She describes the change in the women as, “smooth as milk and as thick as honey.” A collection of observations, prose, and hand-drawn illustrations, the book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter depicts a different theme.
In March 2015, Kaur posted a series of photographs to Instagram depicting herself with menstrual blood stains on her clothing and bed sheets. Described as a piece of visual poetry, it formed her final project for her undergraduate studies and is considered as among her more notable works; intended to challenge prevalent societal menstrual taboos. They were pulled down for not complying with the site’s terms of service. Instagram brought back the images, citing a mistaken removal, and apologised to her after being criticised for displaying the very response that the works were intended to critique. The incident is credited for bringing Kaur more followers and leading to the subsequent rise in popularity of her poetry. As Kaur rose to prominence on social media, milk and honey was re-released by Andrews McMeel Publishing. Book sales of milk and honey surpassed the 2.5 million copy mark and it was the 8th bestselling fiction book in Canada in 2016. As of June 7th 2020, the book has been listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for 165 weeks. Milk and Honey has since been translated into 25 languages.In the United Kingdom, Kaur was credited with an increase in poetry sales seen in 2017.
As in Gurmukhi script, her work is written exclusively in lowercase, using only the period as a form of punctuation. Kaur writes this way to honour her culture. She said that she enjoys the equality of letters and that the style reflects her worldview. Her written work is meant to be an experience that is easy for the reader to follow, with simple drawings to elevate her words. Kaur certainly isn’t spending her time duking it out with other poets. She holds her own unique space in the literary world where her poetry readings are more like pop concerts. To launch The Sun and Her Flowers, she put on a special theatrical performance at the Tribeca Performing Arts Centre in New York City to a sold-out crowd of over 900 people willing to shell out $75 to $100 to see her, Kaur writes about the South Asian experience – hers, her friends’, her family’s – because she doesn’t want to see these stories go untold. “I began writing pieces about violence at the age of 16 after seeing what the women around me were enduring and facing,” Kaur says. “It was my way of reflecting on all of these issues.”