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English alum Rupi Kaur makes top seller lists with poetry collection

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

With 324K followers on Instagram and a best-selling collection of poems, Rupi Kaur is an emerging feminist artist touching on issues of love, violence, and healing in women’s lives.

Rupi Kaur reading to smiling crowd

In just over two years, Kaur (BA '15 English) has gone from self-publishing to landing on the Amazon top seller list for Canadian literature, alongside literary icons like Margaret Atwood. Her book, Milk and Honeyalso made it into the second spot for the Amazon best seller list for poetry.

text and image of poetry

Kaur, a recent Waterloo grad, is drawing hundreds of fans to her readings around Toronto and her online community has gone international with posts of support. Mainstream media has also taken note with the Huffington Post calling Kaur’s work, “beautifully honest poems read like the everyday, collective experiences of today's modern woman.”  

As a Waterloo student, Kaur juggled her academic courses and co-op terms with performance gigs and writing poetry on the side. Kaur, who graduated last year, said:  “I explored my passion for writing at Waterloo - I took writing breaks from my homework and became hooked.” 

First self-published poetry edition sold 17,000 copies 

The product of that passion was Milk and Honey, a self-published book of nearly 200 poems and line drawings that was picked up last fall for a second printing by Andrews McMeel Publishing after quickly selling the initial 17,000 copies. Her new publisher added Spanish and e-book versions. 

Written in spare yet piercing language, Kaur describes her work as “a collection of poetry and prose about survival and the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.” 

text and image from poetry book

She is emerging as a strong feminist artist and a voice for her generation as the fan comments show: 

  • “I am not usually one for poetry, but Rupi Kaur's book really spoke to me.”
  • “I loved it, and re-read it often. Every time I do, something new resonates.”
  • “Touches issues that tend to stay hidden because of shame culture”
  • “Read her poetry, it will change your life.” 

A few months after the release of Milk and Honey, Kaur unleashed an online viral sensation with her project entitled period. - a final assignment for her Visual Rhetoric course with Professor Beth Coleman. 

Poet advanced design, writing, and marketing skills in English program

“The Rhetoric and Professional Writing program taught me actual skill sets and provided a framework for literary analysis. It taught me what moves an audience and what doesn't. I gained the skills of design, marketing, creative writing and branding.” 

The easy route for sharing her poetry would to be to simply post them online. But, for Kaur, the poems had to be made tactile as a print collection. “The Internet wasn't enough for me because the poetry couldn't reach everyone it needed to reach by solely being online. The poetry needed to seep onto bookshelves and into libraries. 

Co-op terms built job skills 

“During my first co-op term I learned to use Adobe InDesign - which I eventually used to design Milk and Honey. In my last co-op job I mastered Adobe Illustrator, which I used for my illustrations.” 

text and image from poetry book

To students who want to build a career in art, Kaur says: “You have to work tirelessly. Sure you don't get paid for a while. But work anyway. The tangible things will come. Trust me, there is nothing more liberating and freeing than being able to do what you love. Everything worth doing is difficult. So keep doing it.” 


Text-only versions of poems

Women of colour

our backs
tell stories
no books have
the spine to
carry

rupi kaur 

To fathers with daughters

every time you
tell your daughter
you yell at her
out of love
you teach her to confuse
anger with kindness
which seems like a good idea​
till she grows up to
trust men who hurt her
cause they look so much
like you

rupi kaur​ 

Untitled

we all move forward when
we recognize how resilient
and striking the women
around us are

- rupi kaur 


Original version of story on Waterloo Stories.

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