Rupi Kaur is a Toronto-based writer and artist, and is widely known for her viral Instagram menstrual photo and 2014 publication ‘milk and honey’. Ahead of her appearance at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, she took the time to speak with Blitz about her inspirations, style and upcoming book.
Kaur is a creative personality, known as an artist, a writer and a spoken word poet. When asked about how she came to writing poetry, she mentioned that she has been writing for many years; the performances she was doing in her early life “somehow transformed into poetry”, as she started to take a stronger and more serious interest in poetry in high school.
“I performed for many years and I was mostly sharing my work online, on my blog, and then somehow it just evolved and evolved and it came to the point where i was posting more of the visual poetry that you see online and on Instagram today,” she explains.
“A lot of the inspiration, I think, is really just from conversations with people that I meet,” Kaur states, “‘milk and honey’ was really just conversations with the women that I had in my life.”
Following on from discussing her exchanges with people throughout her life, Kaur explains that her poetry acts as a mechanism giving a voice to not only her own struggles, but also to the struggles of others.
Through the themes of female sexual empowerment, loss, trauma, and healing, Kaur mentions that her goal is to de-stigmatise taboos, “Those were the topics I wanted to explore, because they were the issues … that women in the community were dealing with at the time and so naturally I was drawn to (them).”
Touching on the healing content of her first collection of poetry, ‘milk and honey’, Kaur says “writing in general is quite cathartic… It’s like finding the answers to questions you may have.”
Mixed media style
Poetry exists in a variety of different forms and styles, and Kaur has explored many different creative outlets. Her writing is particularly unique – using only lower case and incorporating her on illustrations she creates visually appealing pieces.
While her spoken word poetry is incredibly powerful, her written expressions explore a completely different aspect.
“There poems on paper, there are ones you see online … how they look on paper is so important… they are designed and laid out in a way that make them come to life on paper.”
In contrast, she explains, “that sort of thoughtfulness is not placed into the spoken word poetry. That poetry … is in how it sounds, the syllables, the tone, all of that makes it come to life on stage.”
Although the presentation of each poem is carefully calculated, the style seems to have come to Kaur more naturally.
“I kind of just came to it… I mean it took years and years to develop and come to that style. I was exploring with so many different colours and so many different visual looks. I landed on that style because of the reader’s experience,” she elaborates. “I think it eases, and makes the reader experience more high quality.”
More to come
In speaking about her style, Kaur mentions that her new collection to be released later this year, will be of a similar strand to ‘milk and honey’. In terms of including illustrations in her work, she says, “I don’t know if it’s going to be the only mode… its not this mode forever, but for the next book definitely.”
On the upcoming book, she tells us, “It’s five parts and it explores love and heartache, but it also explores ancestry, immigration, femininity – [there are] lots of femininity pieces on evolution – and some political work as well. I think it’s a good reflection of the world at this time.”
In parting remarks, Kaur recommends the works of Sharon Olds and Junot Díaz.