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  #11  
Old 01-04-2018, 02:15 PM
Orwn Acra's Avatar
Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
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I met a boy recently and I awoke one morning to find on his bedside table a book of Kaur's. Though he is not literary, he knows that she isn't very good and that the subjects are cliche, but likes her anyway in a sort of guilty pleasure way for people whose main interests are not poetry. I think the majority of her readers acknowledge that she isn't great. They like her because poetry for them (by which I mean, non-poets) is just a way to express themselves with no claims to high art. Kaur doesn't bother me and in a few years will be forgotten.

More dishonest are the academy poets (found at AWP, MFA programs, and all the right journals) who defend her work because she is South Asian and female and therefore beyond criticism (as Kazim Ali did in a recent, cowardly essay). Or those same poets who believe writers like Vuong are high art when such writers are barely more literate than Kaur.

I like Kaur. She has managed to mock so many academy poets by refusing to do any of the things poets are supposed to do--read each other's work, buy each other's books, publish in journals, attend conferences--while coming out ahead of them all, if coming out ahead means selling the most books.
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  #12  
Old 01-04-2018, 04:14 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I do hope coming out ahead doesn't mean selling the most books.
Cowardly is a good word, there are plenty of trimmers on this planet.

John
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  #13  
Old 01-04-2018, 04:27 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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First of all. Hi Julie!

Secondly, I hadn't heard of Rupi Kaur until I read this thread and Andrew's description intrigued me. Then I found some of her poems online (12 poems that will make me read her book, apparently) and I have to say they're worse than I thought they were going to be. I love raw emotion in poetry. I love simplicity in poetry. But these things seem barely distinguishable from the sort of 'inspirational' memes that appear all over the internet and social media, usually with a sunset or a cat in the background (apart from the line 'your body /is a museum /of natural disasters' -- I liked that).

I watched the video. She seems very intelligent and sincere and, as she says herself, not at all interested in the literary world. I don't at all begrudge her hard-earned success, or think it 'unjustified', and I have no doubt that people do find her poems genuinely inspirational. Which is great. But it's pretty poor poetry to be selling in the hundreds of thousands. And whether she's white /Asian/black/male/female/gay/ straight / has lived a charmed life or a harrowing one, there's no point pretending it isn't.

I agree with Julie that her success isn't going to take any kind of spotlight away from other more 'deserving' poets. But I disagree, I'm afraid, that exposure to her poetry will necessarily act as a 'gateway' to 'better' poetry for many young people (maybe some!). This could be the cynicism of nearly two decades of teaching 11 to 18 year olds in high schools talking, but in my experience teenagers have always gone gaga for this sort of stuff. But break out the Shakespeare and Keats and it's just more 'work'. They see the two things as completely separate. The rare students who do get interested in poetry don't need the Rupi Kaur 'gateway'; their eyes will light up at the Shakespeare. As they should! I kind of feel the same about YA fiction, in a way. When I was a young teen in the 80s (grumpy old man alert) I went straight from reading children's books to Stephen King, Poe, Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. Because there wasn't really a 'gateway': a heavily marketed 'in-between' genre aimed specifically at me. King, as the 'contemporary' choice of the time, was massive among reading teens in the 80s and he's a much better writer than the John Greens and Suzanne Collins of the world. I think things like YA and poetry like Kaur's have got more young people reading (which is good), but that they also have the effect of locking people into a sort of arrested development when it comes to reading, so lots of people get into their 30s having never progressed beyond this stuff. But then again, so what?

Anyway, that's my incredibly boring opinion.

Good luck to Rupi Kaur, I like her doodles.
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  #14  
Old 01-04-2018, 05:50 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark McDonnell View Post
But I disagree, I'm afraid, that exposure to her poetry will necessarily act as a 'gateway' to 'better' poetry for many young people (maybe some!).
Of course, it certainly will not necessarily be a gateway for everyone, but there is the remote possibility it might be for some few, I should think. If not, oh well.
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  #15  
Old 01-04-2018, 07:44 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Forget "gateway poetry." Many readers need direct acknowledgment of what they feel, in words they understand and immediately relate to. Why can't we accept that each reader needs what he or she needs, wants what he or she wants? Poetry has never been "one size fits all." It has always been "whatever works for you." Let a million flowers bloom. I'd like to see that.

Rupi Kaur doesn't provide the kind of complex poetic experience I enjoy most, but I don't think that what she offers is worthless either. Certain writers of popular music have spoken to me in a way that moved me. Do I think that, as poems, those songs beat Shakespeare? No. But I don't want to give up the pleasures of great songs, either.

Susan
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  #16  
Old 01-04-2018, 08:01 PM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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I agree, Susan. I think it is interesting that, in the articles and comment sections I have come across, her critics make the assumption that the way her readers experiece this work must be shallow or fleeting because the medium/style isn't "high" art. It is an underestimate of many things at once.
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  #17  
Old 01-04-2018, 10:17 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Lest I be misconstrued, I believe it is inherently valuable that multitudes themselves relish Kaur (or any other poet for that matter.) So to be clear, Kaur satisfying other readers is sufficient of itself to constitute a valuable thing, to be respected and countenanced. My taste has no bearing on the good, which I recognize, she does for a great many. I wish her all the success in the world; I would deny her nothing.

I questioned whether her rise might increase readership of poetry that I personally appreciate; whatever the answer be as to this, it neither augments nor diminishes the value of her delighting other readers, which remains ever as much a good of itself, regardless. Even if I should derive nothing from her myself, I encourage the tide of her appreciation, as an inherently good thing. Why not? Then, when I wonder to myself if she just might possibly help in the way of a personally defined wish of self-interest, I do not mean my conclusion on that to stand for my valuation of her presence on the public stage. Because, again, it is good that she does what she does for others.

Note: Mr. Lapsus Linguae here after having fudged the spelling of the name, was late to spot the oversight.

Last edited by Erik Olson; 01-05-2018 at 05:57 AM.
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  #18  
Old 01-04-2018, 10:44 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Susan and Andrew (above),

Well, I don't disagree with anything either of you say. I certainly don't think she's worthless. As I said in my post I'm sure people find her poems genuinely inspirational and they give people what they need. People find those 'inspirational' Facebook quotes inspirational too, presumably, or they wouldn't post them. People find Taylor Swift inspirational. I genuinely have no problem with that. But her poetry just isn't very good, and no amount of worrying whether her audience are being patronised by highbrow critics will change that. I find the idea that her poetry shouldn't be criticised because this is the kind of poetry that 'ordinary' people can understand and relate to slightly patronising itself. There are many steps on the ladder of poetic 'accessibility' between Kaur and 'highbrow' poetry and many of them are much better. But to go back to what Andrew S asked in the original post:

Quote:
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
I think it's a bit of a false dichotomy. The answer to all three is 'no'.
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  #19  
Old 01-05-2018, 12:33 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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https://www.poetryfoundation.org/har...0/on-rupi-kaur

I don't know if "cowardly" is the right word, but Orwn has pointed out something interesting: Rupi Kaur's rise has been rapid and totally outside of poetry's usual "channels." Ocean Vuong's has also been rapid and has happened totally within the usual channels; he has recently been appointed a member of the MFA faculty at UMass-Amherst.

Last edited by R. S. Gwynn; 01-05-2018 at 12:38 AM.
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  #20  
Old 01-05-2018, 01:11 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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I am less interested in Rupi Kaur's poetry than in the boy Orwn met recently. How's it going with him, Orwn? Do I hear wedding bells?
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