Every once in a great while a poet comes along who captures a huge following and the rest of us feel all the feels. (Jealously, envy, rage at the injustice, happiness that at least people are reading poetry.) The last time this happened in the United States was in the late sixties and early seventies when Rod McKuen was a phenomenon. Right now, the phenom is Rupi Kaur. She has stirred the hearts and minds and wallets of millennials, especially the young women. She tweets poems of 140 characters, publishes short poems along with pictures of herself on Instagram, reads her work to millions on YouTube.
Rupi Kaur’s poetry (like McKuen’s back in the day) is not critically acclaimed. But her words speak to and for young women of her own generation. She writes of her own experiences with love, heartbreak, sexual assault, and millions of women hear #MeToo. While some of her poetry is longer, much is short and succinct—quotable. Goodreads lists 533 quotes of her work. She has more than 7,000 followers on Goodreads. Kaur also has more than 189,000 followers on Twitter, 445,000 followers on Facebook, and 2.3 million followers on Instagram. She has—what we call in the business—a platform.
Rupi Kaur’s first book, Milk and Honey, sold 1.4 million copies in the first two years. Her second book, The Sun and Her Flowers, debuted at number one on the New York Times best-seller list in October 2017, and continues at number one after twenty-two weeks.
Rod McKuen sold more than sixty million books of poetry. He also sold more than 100 million recordings, and was nominated for two Academy Awards and a Pulitzer for his music compositions. He also had a platform, by virtue of his song writing.
Neither Kaur nor McKuen’s poetry is known for its critical acclaim. But both poets wrote words that touched the hearts and minds of millions of people. People who read poetry that moves them, whether or not the poet is a darling of the critics, will often seek out poetry by other poets. Certainly, Rupi Kaur’s success is spilling over onto other young poets, some of which are perhaps more skilled at the craft. Once a reader becomes a fan of poetry, they will continue to read and buy poetry by other poets.
I write to express my thoughts and feelings, to practice using my words in the best way I know how. I hope that readers will respond. I am grateful to Rupi Kaur and her success because it has brought a new generation to poetry. I can also learn something from her skilled use of all the media. Don’t expect any titillating pictures of me on Instagram, but I might get better at using Twitter to promote my work.
Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts.
Sandra de Helen’s work appears or is forthcoming in Artemis Journal, ROAR, The Dandelion Review, The Medical Journal of Australia, Mom Egg, Lavender Review: Night Issue, and other journals. Her collection of lesbian love poems, Desire Returns for a Visit, is forthcoming from Launch Point Press.
Categories: Guest Blog Posts