The honest words of Rupi Kaur leave you continuously wanting more as she writes with eloquence and poise. Her work will send you to past thoughts and realities you might not have known you had.
We had the opportunity to chat with Rupi on her poetry, inspiration, the beauty of being a female and more. Enter her world through her conversation with Sienna Brown from WildSpice.
So for the readers who might need an introduction, can you share a little bit about yourself?
Rupi Kaur: I'm Rupi Kaur. I write poetry mostly. Sometimes I'll dabble in fiction and plays. I've also been performing spoken word for two years. I was born in Punjab, a state in northeast India and immigrated to Canada with my mom at the age of 3. She introduced me to the arts at an early age. Coming from a struggling immigrant family we couldn't afford to sign up for sports or summer camps so the arts were something I could explore at home. I was always drawing, learning different techniques from mom. I wasn't writing at this tender age but I was always reading. I read like my life depended on it. We didn't have toys growing up, but we had a bounteous amount of books. My parents made sure we always had enough to keep us busy for a life time.
When did you start writing and sharing your poetry? What caused you to begin exploring this kind of creation?
RK: Most of my life I was a shy, quiet girl. In middle school, I'd write poems for my friends on their birthdays. Sometimes they were love poems. It wasn't 'till I took a creative writing course last year in the university did I realize that I really enjoyed writing and that it was something worth exploring.
I never thought I'd be comfortable sharing my work. Actually, I was supposed to share it under a pseudonym. No one was supposed to know who Rupi Kaur was but for some reason, when thinking of a pseudonym back in December, I felt like I couldn't do that to myself. Not again.
I couldn't hide just because I was so genuinely afraid of what people might think of me. That went against everything I wrote about. It was important to the people experiencing what I was writing to know it was a real person behind these works, not a fake profile. So, the first time I posted I was so afraid. I was so shy and uncomfortable it made me nauseous. And I still get nervous to this date.
Who or what inspires you?
RK: Warsan Shire and Nayyirah Waheed are two of my favorite writers. I wouldn't have explored "paper" poetry if it wasn't for Warsan's work. Her poetry literally flipped my insides out. Her poetry forced me to heal. It was a slow, yet beautiful process that changed me. I went on to do a writing workshop with Warsan and it was after that I began to take writing more seriously. I took her advice, I wrote everyday and here we are. Nayyirah's work is some of the most honest and pure I've read. They are both such strong, bold, and intelligible women.
Describe your perfect Sunday.
RK: A perfect Sunday is waking up to the sound of silence. Having pancakes and tea alone in my kitchen. Sneaking back into bed because I don't know the next time I'll have to rest. Watching reruns of my favorite TV show or reading a novel. Making myself lunch, one with lots of carbs and lots of cheese. Afterwards, I'd spend time drawing and when I realize whatever I'm drawing isn't very good, I'd write instead. I'd like to get some exercise in there. A sauna would be nice. Afterwards, I'd wash my hair of the week's worries. Go to dinner with the family, somewhere with fancy drinks and good bread.
You have a collection of short poems called "Things That Shouldn't Be Difficult to Say." Tell me the first five phrases that come to mind right now of "things that shouldn't be difficult to say."
- I miss you
- Last night I woke up 7 times in hourly increments hoping the night was over.
- I am scared my grandfather will not be alive the next time I have a chance to go see him.
- I've been thinking about why people are happy seeing others fail everyday for the past three weeks.
- I must become better at practicing kindness.
You write on things from heartbreak to sexual assault, yet you tackle the hard topics in such an eloquent, honest and relatable way. Is your creation process different depending on what kind of poem you're writing? Do you ever find that you censor yourself?
RK: It isn't very different from poem to poem. I use the same approach. The idea will come like a flash of light in front of my eyes and I'll scramble to find a place to write it down. My creation process is this...write down my feelings and thoughts as honestly as possible. I've realized when I'm being honest with myself, I create my best work.
Before, I used to try to replicate my mentors but nothing I wrote settled in my stomach because trying to write like them wasn't being genuine to myself. When I let go of that desire and nurtured the need to discover my own voice, I gained the power to tackle any topic in a way I'd always wished for. Sometimes it doesn't come that easy. Sometimes I have to practice it and it will take me pages and pages of writing to nurture a poem that is fully grown. Depending on the topic, I do censor myself... usually in my love poems where the characters are getting a bit frisky. I know I have some younger readers, so I don't want to expose them to too much spiciness, you know what I mean? Sometimes keeping it PG-13 is important but when I write about sexual assault, not so much. I want to write about it in an honest way, but still portray the pain so the reader can understand the victim in the poem.
When do you do your best work?
RK: Alone. In a quiet place. When I have a lingering thought.
The poem I wrote for International Women's Day was floating in my head for about six months. You know when you meet up with friends and it's all just very natural for you to compliment each other? I'd always say "You look beautiful." Always. That just seemed like the ultimate compliment to hand out and it seemed like the ultimate compliment to receive. But why, I thought? Why was this the word we craved to hear? Why was I feeding these women something that didn't even matter? Why do I never compliment them on how resilient and how strong, brave and intelligent they are?
This was a very singular and clear thought in my head for a very long time. At first, I was a little apprehensive about sharing it but one day, I decided to write it down and that poem was so natural it literally fell out of my fingers.
That poem is beautiful and one of my personal favorites. I'm interested in knowing some things that you appreciate about being a woman?
RK: We are so graceful. So regal. We have the universe inside of us. The power of our bodies is a miracle. I love my womanly curves. I like the way the stretch marks on my thighs look human and that we're so soft, yet rough and jungle wild when we need to be. I love that about us, how capable we are of letting ourselves feel so much...that takes strength. Just being a woman, calling myself woman, makes me feel like a queen.
To follow up with that, as a creator and influencer, how do you hope that your work can inspire women to love and appreciate themselves more?
RK: I want women to realize power is theirs to take. They must reach out and swallow it. Snatch it. Claim it. It will never be given to us.
You must love yourself and appreciate the work of art that you are. Humbly, I write because it makes me feel closer to women. That sense of sisterhood I develop with them through my work is what makes me whole and complete. I used to think it was going to be a tall, dark and handsome boy that would really make me feel complete, cure that loneliness, but no, it was this feeling of sisterhood that has completed me, along with practicing self-love.
Self-love is a constant journey but it's such an important aspect of life to tackle and truly embody. What does self-love look like to you?
RK: Self-love is realizing you're your own soulmate. It's treating yourself how you'd treat your lover, with kindness and care. It's reminding yourself how capable you are, yet how hard you must work to make your dreams come true. For me, I've had to do a lot of self-healing and it was really through the small things so whenever I caught myself saying awful things about me, I had to stop.
"You're so ugly." "Why do you destroy everything?" "You're no good." All that constant negativity inside my head had to stop. I couldn't abuse myself any longer. I'd never say these things to a friend or a lover, so why say it to myself?
You have a great Twitter presence and often share some of your work through tweets. Do you find yourself creating works specifically for that or do you condense other poems that you already have?
RK: "Twitter poems", I call them. They weren't meant to be poems though, just thoughts. This was long before I began to take writing seriously. I just wanted to share these little morsels but I was shocked to receive such instant positive feedback. The love was overwhelming. I thought, people actually feel this stuff? I think I was originally inspired by Ernest Hemingway's "six-word story."
But ever since I started to write and publish my work online, I sorta stopped writing for twitter so I just share lines out of poems I already have, or shorter poems that luckily fit in that darned 140 character limit. All my love to my supporters on twitter though, they motivated me to write honestly and loudly.
What exciting things do you have happening in the upcoming future that we should know about?
RK: I have some more spoken word videos we've just finished shooting. They should be releasing soon and I'm working on my first book! It's a really rigorous process so I'm just taking it slow. I have some of it done and I've given it a title but that's all I can share for now. I'm trying to make sure it's as organic and nurturing of a process as possible. When writing begins to feel like work, I just don't see the point in it anymore, for myself at least.