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Old 01-03-2018, 09:04 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Default Rupi Kaur

I couldn't find a discussion here, so forgive me if I missed something obvious. PBS News Hour did an piece on her yesterday.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/po...s-in-a-new-way

I'm curious about what it is in her poetry--so obviously cliché, but rooted in real passion and an interesting life story--that connects to so many. Is there something in her style, her form, that other poets can learn from? Can she be the harbinger of a poetic resurgence? Or is her work just a product of a consumer culture that's meant to be consumed and tossed aside--and thus so treacle-laden--that nothing of it can be appropriated into work that is meant to stick with us?

Last edited by Andrew Szilvasy; 01-03-2018 at 09:06 AM.
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Old 01-03-2018, 07:03 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I received one of Raur's books for my birthday, and the same book again from someone else for Christmas, from two well-intentioned people who assumed that the bestselling poetry book of the year would be the perfect gift for me, because they know I like poetry.

(Which is, BTW, also how, in past years, I have made the acquaintance of books by such poets as Mattie J.T. Stepanek, which I found to be about as juvenile as one might expect a book written by a kid to be, plus a few Pulitzer prizewinners that I found impenetrable.)

Frankly, I like Raur's work much more than I have most years' poetry bestsellers.

Raur uses a lot of clichés. But so do popular songs. Clichés become clichés because they are powerful and memorable and meaningful to a lot of people. Orwell's essay on Kipling gives substantial attention to this point, and not in a complimentary way: "A good bad poem is a graceful monument to the obvious," "records...some emotion which very nearly every human being can share," "is a vulgar thought vigorously expressed," etc. Orwell also mentioned the intersection of clichés and sentimentality in such popular works: "however sentimental it may be, its sentiment is ‘true’ sentiment in the sense that you are bound to find yourself thinking the thought it expresses sooner or later; and then, if you happen to know the poem, it will come back into your mind and seem better than it did before."

That said, a large part of Raur's success is precisely that she's NOT exploring "some emotion which very nearly every human being can share." She is focusing on gender and culture-specific experiences familiar to many women and minorities (and other used and abused people), who may not have seen such parts of their own lives represented in literature before.

You and I have. Many poets these days are writing about "edgy" topics and minority experiences. But they tend to write mainly for a highbrow audience, which is regarded by many poets as the only audience that really counts. Raur is writing about these things in a way actually designed to be accessible to people like her own young, brown, female, first-person narrator, rather than just to connoisseurs of literature (for whom imagining themselves as young, brown, and/or female may be just an exotic and somewhat unpleasant vacation, rather than a lived reality).

Most poetry--even here at Eratosphere--is directed to a fairly limited and erudite audience, who won't need footnotes to catch clever classical allusions, recognize and appreciate arcane forms, etc. (Look how insulted some readers get if we have the temerity to give them a footnote that they didn't need.)

But the over-educated are not the only section of humanity that needs what poetry can offer.

In writing about traumatic personal events that many others have endured, Raur is giving a voice to the voiceless. True, the harrowing nature of the content sometimes--okay, often--overwhelms the craft. But at least she's actually speaking about these things in a way that others find meaningful, which is more than I've managed to do with all my careful craft and avoidance of sentimentality.

So good for her. I'm sincerely glad that she's reaching an appreciative audience--one that, by the way, she actually worked very hard to cultivate, all by herself, through years of posting social media content that real people found accessible and relevant to their own lives.

Raur built a huge social media following before she published her first poetry book, and therefore had a ready-made market. Yes, I know, there may be some sour grapes because that's not the way most of us poets do it. Most of us spend years honing our craft and carefully placing our poems in this and that journal, and we only think about building a fan base after we finally publish a book, and suddenly realize just how much space the unsold ones will be taking up if we can't manage to unload them at readings and such.

But the spotlight that Raur is getting is not taking any attention from poets that I enjoy more. It's not as if those poets would be getting marketed to that wider demographic if Raur weren't getting such buzz right now.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 01-03-2018 at 10:46 PM.
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Old 01-03-2018, 07:50 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Julie, welcome back! It's so good to hear your voice again.
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Old 01-03-2018, 10:44 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks! I did almost nothing poetry-related for most of last year. I read Rupi Kaur, though. :-)

I did find some of her poems (and drawings) in Milk and Honey genuinely moving. Many of her poems are free-verse epigrams, which, like haiku, probably seem more void of craft than they really are.
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Old 01-04-2018, 01:59 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Just to agree with RCL. It's nice to see you posting.
Poetry is a big tent, and anything that makes folks more interested in it is likely to be a good thing in my book. Let them open the door on illumination.
Not that I've read Rupi Kaur.

Cheers,
John
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Old 01-04-2018, 10:24 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I listened to her interview. She is obviously a highly-intelligent young person who is doing what she loves out of what seems to be sincere motives. She states clearly and maturely that she is not interested in the literary world. She isn't writing in a furious attempt to become one of the "immortals." In a way, she's braver and wiser than the thousands of young people who have paid for graduate writing degrees in hopes of entering the club of those the literary journals deign to consider worthwhile. Who stands a greater chance of wasting their lives?
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Old 01-04-2018, 10:48 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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I had seen snippets of her poetry recently. I was not impressed. I watched the PBS video and again was not impressed. I get the feeling she is a manifestation of what social media feigns to be: applicable to everything. Thoughtful. Important. (Though I understand that her followers who share her same affinity for insta-this and twitter-that see in her writing an easy resemblance to what, until now, has been the art of writing poetry. I'm ok with coining her as a "social media-generated poet", but can't find much to glean from what I've seen of her work.)

I follow Julie Steiner, so it's good to hear your voice again Julie.
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Old 01-04-2018, 11:38 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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My sad ego presses me to say that of course, the poetry is bad. It's interesting in a socio-historical way that the new Rod McKuen is a female immigrant from South Asia, but the poetry isn't as memorable as most pop songs. My earlier comment was about her awareness of what she's doing.
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Old 01-04-2018, 12:17 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Julie Steiner View Post
But the spotlight that Raur is getting is not taking any attention from poets that I enjoy more. It's not as if those poets would be getting marketed to that wider demographic if Raur weren't getting such buzz right now.
It is nice indeed to hear from you again, Julie. What you say is true I think. If anything, she increases the segment of the general public to whom poetry speaks and, for that reason, who are more likely to look into other poets besides. It is another avenue to the world of poetry; the more avenues by which to engage the public the better in my opinion. Engagement with some is better than engagement with no poetry. They who read mediocre poetry are at least more likely to engage with better at some point as compared with those who read none at all.

Added later: Unless, possibly I guess, it is of such magnitudinous aridity so as to lead not a soul with breath to a single better piece of poetry whatsoever (even if it had such effect for no more than one individual on the planet, that would be a good thing). But even if it does nobody any good, it does nobody any harm, so I do not care.

Last edited by Erik Olson; 01-04-2018 at 05:44 PM.
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Old 01-04-2018, 12:40 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I'm a little fixated on highbrow. What does that mean, exactly? Educated, that you do in fact believe in dinosaurs and go to fancy places? Really I'm not sure. And only academics would break things down as such, so surely you don't mean them (or us)? There's a lot of latitude there. I don't know this poet, but am certain to look her up now. (And good to see you back too, Julie.)

Last edited by James Brancheau; 01-04-2018 at 11:14 PM. Reason: A never mind personal example
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