Rupi Kaur: Authenticity through the lens of poetry

By Mariah Siddiqui

Rupi Kaur is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator. The Indian-born Canadian poet released two poetry collections: Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers that caught the eyes and hearts of people on a worldwide scale.

Two illustrated bees can be seen on the dark cover of  Milk and Honey.  (CanCulture/Mariah Siddiqui)

Two illustrated bees can be seen on the dark cover of Milk and Honey. (CanCulture/Mariah Siddiqui)

Milk and Honey is raw and unforgettable. It was released in 2014 and jumpstarted Kaur’s career as people resonated with the poetry and prose she poured her heart into. The book is separated into four parts: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing.

‘The hurting’ deals with the themes of sexual assault and trauma. The pages hit you in a way you don’t expect because they are so real and authentic. There is no filter when it comes to this section and the experiences are uncensored and heartbreaking.

‘The loving’ explores the feeling of being so wrapped up in love and the happiness that comes with being with someone. It not only explores romantic love but the kind of love you feel from a maternal perspective. People can relate to love as it is something so commonly felt and experienced. However, with love also comes heartbreak which people can heavily relate to as well.

‘The breaking’ is all about that heartbreak. Breakups suck but most people have gone through one and know how hard it is to get over sometimes. This section pours that all onto the paper through the dark illustrations and truthful emotions within the poems.

‘The healing’ is warm and inviting. It talks about dealing with that trauma and heartbreak and finding yourself again through all of that. It is a reclamation of loving who you are and where you come from. Reading the words is almost therapeutic as you witness Kaur overcoming battles in an inspirational way.

The stark white cover can be seen with illustrations of sunflowers. (CanCulture/Mariah Siddiqui)

The stark white cover can be seen with illustrations of sunflowers. (CanCulture/Mariah Siddiqui)

The Sun and Her Flowers is full of metaphors and powerful messages. The poetry book was released in 2017 and is set up in a similar way to her first collection. This book is separated into five parts: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.

‘Wilting’ is all about pain and the subject of heartbreak is revisited once again.

‘Falling’ is about being at your lowest. It visits the subject of depression and loneliness in an intense way.

‘Rooting’ talks about searching for your identity and beginning to manifest the idea of who you are again into your own mind.

‘Rising’ is putting those thoughts of who you are into the real world as you make changes that encourage your personal growth.

‘Blooming’ is succeeding in doing so and looking back at everything you have gone through, knowing you are stronger because of it. This section discusses femininity and empowerment through having important discussions and putting those thoughts into action.

When comparing the two poetry collections, there are many patterns and similarities between them. The first book cover is dark black and the second opposes that with its stark white cover. They both are organized in sections and each book tackles sensitive issues in a way a lot of people haven’t seen before. Both discuss the way love feels and the pain of a heartbreak, but they both do it in a way that can be easily related to.

While Milk and Honey is straightforward with the process of growth, The Sun and Her Flowers embodies the process in a beautiful way. The life of a flower is used as a metaphor to explain the way humans feel. First, we wilt due to pain and trauma, then we fall before we begin to root. Then we begin to grow and find ourselves and we rise and bloom. The image of a flower is a known image of beauty and strength. The comparison was done effectively and draws a powerful parallel.

Many share the opinion that Kaur writes mainstream poetry that isn’t that special, but it takes immense strength to write these poems down and share them with others. When people share their truth, it is never guaranteed that every single person is going to get it and relate to it. There are no rules to expression through art. It takes courage to tackle such significant and broadly misrepresented issues in the bold ways Kaur has.

If you want to check out one of these books, I suggest you start with Milk and Honey first for an insight on how Kaur progressed as a poet. Personally, that one resonated with me on a deeper level and I felt connected to many of the pieces in it. I hope it does the same for you.

Valentine’s Day poetry event at Union Station intrigues local commuters

By Alexander Sowa

‘Poetry in Union: Railway Lines and Valentines’ lets travellers get a personalized love poem written by one of nine professional Toronto poets

Union Station passersby were encouraged to engage in early Valentine’s Day festivities by allowing Toronto poets to personalize a poem for them.

Commuters and visitors were invited to sit down, enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate and doughnuts while the poets did their work.

“You sit with a person in an intimate space, at a desk. Not across the desk, but together. And you just ask them questions. What’s on your mind? What’s on your heart? What do you think of when you think of train travel?” said Kate Marshall Flaherty, organizer of the event.

Kate Marshall Flaherty at ‘Poetry in Union.’ (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Kate Marshall Flaherty at ‘Poetry in Union.’ (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Flaherty continued to explain what the participants could expect at the end of their session with their Toronto poet.

“Eventually, as any poet will tell you, you get an image or a spark or an idea, and then you write for a minute or two. And then you read it to the traveller. Even amongst ourselves when we did it, it was very powerful. I can only imagine what it must be like for an unsuspecting traveller,” she said.

Hannah Martin, a marketing company owner, said that it was interesting to have someone attentively listen to what they had to say, as well having questions posed to them that people would not normally ask.

“(The poets) ask you questions … like ‘What is it in your life that’s going on that you need this for?’ And then you have to think about it,” said Martin.

Hannah Martin, left, with her company co-owner Shannon Litt, right, posing with their poems at the event. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Hannah Martin, left, with her company co-owner Shannon Litt, right, posing with their poems at the event. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, one of the poets, described the writing process as wonderful and intimate.

“It feels like you create a space very quickly where people aren’t strangers anymore, very fast. But it’s tough because with only a couple of questions, you have to get a whole bunch of images to put in the poem,” he said.

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Toronto poet, smiling while on a break from poem-writing. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Toronto poet, smiling while on a break from poem-writing. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Chloe Catan, the public art program manager for Waterfront Toronto, said that she gained a great admiration for the poets.

“I decided that I wanted to give my husband a poem for Valentine’s Day. I told Dominique the story of how we met in Mexico City. He listened to me for a few minutes, and then wrote a beautiful poem. I’m really happy,” said Catan.

‘A big first step’

The event, “Poetry in Union: Railway Lines and Valentines” was presented by the League of Canadian Poets.

According to Ayesha Chatterjee, the league’s former president, they are a “non-profit organization whose mandate is to encourage and promote poetry in Canada, as well as Canadian poets.”

This event is the first of its sort to be held by the league. “We usually don’t do events. Usually what we do is we’re in the background, we help to provide funding, we tweet, we use social media, we do stuff like that. We have an annual lecture at a conference, but this is the first time we’ve done anything quite like this. It’s a big first step,” said Chatterjee.

Flaherty emphasized that it was important for the poets involved to be from Toronto and showcase diversity.

“We really tried to have a cross-section of Toronto, which I think is the most multicultural, most diverse population in the world. It’s really important that we covered a microcosm of the world in Toronto,” said Flaherty.

The nine poets involved are all Toronto residents - Lesley Belleau, Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Ronna Bloom, Michael Fraser, Suparna Ghosh, Jessica Hiemstra, Max Layton, Rajinderpal Pal and Kate Marshall Flaherty.

The Right Time

Flaherty said that she was inspired to create the event in 2017 after being sent a video of “The Poet Is In,” a similar event that was held at Grand Central Station in New York.

Since Union Station had just been renovated, she said that they were working hard in order to make it accessible, arts friendly and community wide.

Flaherty said that she hopes to make this an annual event and that they are working with Union Station to make it happen.

If you are interested in more events like this at Union Station, you can view a full calendar of all the free activities they offer at torontounion.ca/event.