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Posted at: Jan 28, 2018, 1:48 AM; last updated: Jan 28, 2018, 1:48 AM (IST)BOOK REVIEW: THE SUN AND HER FLOWERS BY RUPI KAUR.

Bold but still familiar

Bold but still familiar
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur. Simon and Schuster. Pages 248 Rs 499

Meher Vadehra

The Sun and Her Flowers is the second book of poems, written and illustrated by the star poet of our generation, Rupi Kaur. 

She took the world by storm with her feminist Instagram posts. The popularity of these posts soon translated her into her first book, Milk and Honey. 

Now the world is, more or less divided, over how much they hate or love Rupi Kaur’s poetry. Many assure us that she and her poetry are one and the same, so the people, who like what she stands for, automatically like her “poetry”. 

It helps to know about the personality of the writer to understand their work. It is but natural that a writer's works will reflect his/her personality, but it would not be right to let their personality overtake their work. 

Both approaches, to read a work at a structural level and then to read it in a context, are of equal value when reading literature. However, in my case, as most young people, I learnt of Rupi before her poetry, as an immigrant student in Canada. She seemed to me, then, a solitary voice whispering, singing, and screaming about home and being an Indian woman abroad. In The Sun and Her Flowers, the intention behind her work would resonate with most young people. 

According to Ayn Rand, the author of modern day classics like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, novels that forwarded her theory of Objectivism, Reason, Achievement and Ethical Self Interest are the three pillars of a free, dynamic and peaceful societ. Rupi Kaur’s poetry has a taste of all three. 

When it comes to reason, her work, her ideas, her premise are all founded in her experiences. She has a tendency to overuse the tool of subversion, however, this is what makes her a post-post modern poet. She has moved beyond the literary movement by the Beat generation (an American social and a literary movement in the post-World War II era in 1950s), disenfranchising spoken word, and has instead chosen to work on an inner monologue without rhythm, form or metre. 

Her work is unreasonably functional. There is no evidence of form. Her work is not a declaration. It is a series of sighs — some of them obscene, some startlingly stark and alienating, some plainly ugly. 

It is a poet’s duty to elaborate, exaggerate, decorate and to renegotiate old definitions. And in this sense, a few aspects of The Sun and Her Flowers are an achievement. The highly literal titles of poems that come at the end of each work, are like afterthoughts. The titles and illustrations do make the structure reasonable, if not bitingly clear. It is human nature to feel things first and then name the feeling and that’s what these titles feel like. That makes reading these so uncomfortable. 

Rupi Kaur is anything but subtle. She is an unapologetic millennial insta celebrity, and a highly privileged, Indian writer. And her “ethical self interest”, the one that is not harming others and is almost obsessively internalised into a single community, is what makes her original. 

That she has started a movement is doubtable, but she is definitely part of a movement of creativity that makes her poetry disgustingly familiar. It is abject art. The abject is a type of art that has to do with bodily fluids and processes, with natural emissions that when represented and brought face to face with us, become shockingly fearsome. The abject is ugly in nature, it is the love for love which is today a taboo bigger than sex itself. Rupi Kaur’s book is like emotional vomit, for second class citizen living with first world problems. 

Rupi Kaur is not a poet to many but she is more human than any other poet at the moment. She is living her life in the present time, not looking back at old masters except maybe the Beat generation and is in fact offering us her window, to the soul in those of us that we refuse to, or don’t know how to embrace. The Sun and Her Flowers has the appeal for the women who are going through what she talks about and to the “others” whom it fascinates. 

Hopefully, time will allow her to elucidate better, and with less sharpness the noble ideas she has in her mind, onto paper. With The Sun and Her Flowers, she seems to be going in the right direction. 


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