Many of you may have heard of poet, Rupi Kaur. She has written poetry, performed spoken word, and engaged in other forms of art as a way of expressing herself. Rupi recently published her first book of poems, Milk & Honey and kindly sat down with Kaur Life to talk about her journey.
Growing up, Rupi would write poems for friends for their birthdays or as messages to her middle school crushes. “They were so silly…,” she recalled, “It was so embarrassing.” But writing wasn’t central to her life as much as it is today. “Writing didn’t matter to me at all because art was my first love growing up. My mother taught me from a young age to paint and draw.” In fact, in her book, Milk & Honey you can see some of Rupi’s art work coupled with her poems.
It wasn’t until November of 2013 did Rupi take writing poetry seriously. That is when she started reading writers like Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf, and Warsaw Shire. “Everything changed,” Rupi said. These poets gave her indescribable feelings, words. “I was astounded by the way they were able to put all my intricate feelings into simple words. I was completely transfixed about how heavily their poetry moved me. That form of expression, the ability to knock the breath out of someone’s stomach with a sentence, to me that was power.” Before this point, Rupi said that her body and heart “…was heavy with thoughts and emotions,” and she had not yet found a way to express herself.
Rupi came to find that words could be her best line of defense and she started wielding the pen like a sword.
“For a woman who, at so many points was not physically strong enough to defend herself, writing became my weapon. It became my tool of intellect.” Rupi went on to talk about what inspired her to write seriously. “Injustice was my first inspiration, suffering was my second, and love was my last. Anything that forces me to really feel deeply, inspires and moves me to write. These days, I find myself gaining inspiration from just about anything. The universe has so much to offer, and I’m soaking it all in.”
Rupi also draws on her Sikhi as a life-giver and motivator not only in her writing, but in life too.
“For the past couple of years Sikhi has been such a tender and powerful force in my life. It has allowed me to believe in myself, my thoughts, and ideals as a person of the world.” Rupi says one chapter of Milk & Honey in particular, “The Healing,” emerged from many Sikh principles. “It speaks to the ideas of balance, self acceptance, identity, and humility. These are things I’ve learnt and experienced on my journey through Sikhi.”
Sikhi is art, Rupi says. “ Sikhi is so much about art. It was born of the arts.” She looks at the Guru Granth Sahib as a creative expression of love, “The Guru Granth Sahib is the most humbling and universal collection of poetry to be written.” She looks at Sikh history too for inspiration, “Guru Gobind Singh Ji employed 52 poets in his court at Anandpur Sahib. Guru Nanak was the first feminist. Guru Harkrishan showed us that age is just a number. Bibi Nanaki was the first Sikh. I could go on and on but you get my point….the culture we are born from inspires and influences my work everyday.”
Rupi has worked on her book Milk & Honey for about year. She gave her, “health, sweat and tears to the pages.” When asked about her hopes for her new book Rupi replied, “Milk & Honey is just a baby. I don’t know what I am expecting to happen I think I’m just thankful and happy it’s out there in the world.”
Just like any mother’s wishes for her child, Rupi wants her “baby” to be in warm arms and safe homes to be cherished. “I want readers to experience the poetry fully, feel what I feel, and heal how I’ve healed. I want to put readers directly in the mind and body of my subject. I am hoping it is that powerful.”
In Milk & Honey, Rupi exposes her soul. “I feel I’ve presented the most honest version of myself in this book in terms of emotion and feeling,” she said. “I am completely vulnerable and open in my words. All I can hope for is that Milk & Honey is embraced. I hope that the poems bring some light and happiness into the lives of those who read them. That is my greatest hope.”
Rupi Kaur is an inspiration to many, especially young Sikh girls. She’s brought Sikh art, vulnerability, and beauty to the mainstream in a contemporary fashion. In a way, she has helped make authenticity “en vogue.” So, what’s advice to young Kaurs on how to be strong Sikh women?
“I want them to know they are already strong, Sikh women. They are radiant and intelligent and graceful. That is how we are designed. I don’t think the universe creates weak beings, only beings who fall into the false pretense of thinking they’re weak. That’s the challenge: overcoming that negative barrier or idea. First we have to accept ourselves, externally and internally. We have to define our journey in Sikhi in a way that is comfortable for us. We have to let go of the pressure society is throwing at us. It is your journey with the universe and that’s it.
And we must practice the basics. Loving, Sharing, Giving, Accepting others, not judging those around us. Second, we must accept each other. Ladies, we got to stick together. Whether you wear a braid, a bun, cut your hair, or rock a dastar, we have to stand by each other. We can’t go about judging one another on who’s more Sikh, or who’s doing what behind closed doors. We have to let unconditional love in, and we have to let unconditional love out into the world. That is how we’ll rise. That is how we’ll show not only our community, but the world what we’re about.”
Lastly, Rupi wanted to take this opportunity to share her heartfelt, sincere thanks with the community.
“The support I’ve gotten from the community has been so warming. It’s completely shaken me and most of all, it’s humbled me to become a better human being, I hope! This journey would be nothing and going no where if it wasn’t for all the love and support I’m given and for that, I’m forever grateful.”
You can you get your own copy of Milk & Honey here.
Rupi Kaur’s first book Milk & Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. Split into four chapters, each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk & Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
Rupi Kaur is a writer based in Toronto, Canada. She studied Rhetoric and Professional Writing at the University of Waterloo. She travels globally to speak and teach workshops on topics such as trauma and healing while also performing her spoken word poetry. Rupi devours words, art, metaphors, bodies of water, and storytelling. She shares her writing with the world as a means to create a safe space for progressive healing and forward movement. You can find more of her work at www.rupikaur.com. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org