Rachel Grate
January 12, 2015 6:00 am
Did one of your 2015 resolutions include reading more poetry? Well, then I bring you good news. The super bold and brilliant feminist poet Rupi Kaur has just come out with her new book milk and honey and is already sharing excerpts of her work online.

If you have bad memories of epic poems you were forced to analyze back in school, fear not. Rupi’s poetry is simple, relatable, gorgeous, and grounded in the everyday experiences of young women. Just like us here at HelloGiggles, she’s focused on relationships between women and how we can lift each other up and inspire one another to be our best selves. Her poems are the type you will be cutting out, and pasting all over your walls.

We fully love Rupi and were so happy she was nice enough to chat with us about her work. Definitely read her incredibly poetry, but also stick around here to get her wise words on the motivation to write, how she found self-confidence, and her advice for any woman dealing with heartbreak.
(Rupi writes all in lower case, her responses are kept in lower case to honor her style.)
What was your motivation to start sharing your poetry online?

  what got me to start was just my desire to document the existence of a woman like me. growing up i was a very quiet girl. i was extremely sensitive and emotional. which meant i carried a lot of weight . . . i needed to share. i wrote to have a place to put those feelings so i could feel lighter.

 What do you hope readers get from your poetry?

i hope they find peace. i hope they find the words they are looking for, for the feelings they are feeling. i hope they can read the words and their hearts can sigh in relief and think ‘yes. this is exactly what’s happening to me and i’m glad i can finally make sense of it’ because that is what i’ve needed for so long, and it’s all i want to provide.
 

Many of your poems discuss a breakup or love lost. Do you have any advice for anyone going through this? 
it will feel like you will never get through it but look, you are getting through it. even if it doesn’t feel like it. you’re breathing. living. the pain is unendurable but you are enduring it. that’s the beauty of life . . . let yourself move forward. let go . . . you hold all the power so embrace the idea that if this didn’t work you are deserving of something more fitting. all you can do is heal yourself . . . let go of all the negativity. remove it from your life. get busy with life. begin taking care of yourself, start a project, fill your life with love. and over time, everything will heal.
 

How do you feel your identity as a woman of color influences your poetry?
i think who you are is everything. and so when who you are is invisible, butchered, undesirable, and so on, it can do a lot of damage. so being a brown woman growing up in the west, where the ideal woman was white, sent me on a terrifying journey.
i was already doubting who i was because . . . women like me were not represented at all. anywhere. so i had no one to look up to. that looked like me. that had parents like mine. that spoke my language. that carried my strong punjabi features. it all happens subconsciously. you are convinced you are ugly. and even if you know you’re beautiful, you think you cannot be beautiful enough.
those experiences pushed my work. i was forced to ask myself the difficult questions. i had to look at myself in the mirror, make a list of things i disliked about me and write about those so i could learn and figure out ways to fall in love with them. so that i could show other brown women why we need to celebrate the things that make us unique.

What is the meaning of the title of your collection, milk and honey

i chose the title because of my attachment and history with both milk and honey . . .  growing up there was no such thing as tylenol. [my dad] and mom would give me a spoon of some honey with ayurvedic medicine. or mixed in with milk. both of those are central to my upbringing, and more so they’re central to my community.

when i think about my people and all the struggles they’ve gone through, from the genocides we’ve faced and all we’ve lost, i think we’re as smooth and sweet as milk and honey. my father also told me once that honey is the one thing that does not die. no matter how long it’s been sitting in a jar, ten years or a hundred, honey, in its natural, raw and unrefined state lives forever, and i think that’s just about the most beautiful thing.

One of your poems says “We all move forward when we recognize how resilient and striking the women around us are.” Who are the women around you who have most influenced you?
it’s the strength in women that has inspired me. my mother, my sisters, my friends. the women throughout history who have endured. who have fought against patriarchy and fought for the rights of those around them.
for so long we’re convinced that we are each others’ competition, but it isn’t like that. why would we want to be in competition with each other when instead, we can be our biggest supporters? the bond between women, the bond between sisters is timeless and everlasting . . .
since i’ve embraced and began to nurture sisterhood at a grassroots level in my community, i’ve really started to grow, and have been able to help other some and see other women rise. and that’s all it’s about. the power to uplift. we have that within ourselves and we have to use it.
Are there any experiences you’ve had that you felt you needed to write about?
i want to write about women, i want to write about love, the experience of loss, beauty, sexuality. all the things that make you you, and make me me.
i want to show the different dynamics of a woman . . . we’re not simple. we are complex and we feel and experience many different things. we are many different things at once. and so i want to showcase that.
Why do you choose to write in all lower case?
visual art was my first love and i am passionate about branding and the way something looks. writing in all lowercase is apart of that branding and visual experience for me. it keeps the poem looking even and symmetrical . . . i love the flow of that. when i write with capital letters i find it interrupting that visual pleasure.
 

You’re very active on social media. How do you feel online communities shape your writing or create a space for you and other women?
the blog has been a huge space for conversation on many difficult topics. i have women asking me about all types of things they might not be comfortable discussing otherwise. body hair. sexuality. questioning their gender. raising children. getting out of bad marriages. figuring out how to get out of unhealthy relationships.
the blog has become an open space for these discussions where we all come together to learn and create narrative for things we don’t regularly discuss. and if i can’t answer a question i open it up to others who might be able to help. it’s just home, you know? my home.
Thanks so much to Rupi for answering our questions. Pick up a copy of milk & honey and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr for more of her beautiful words!
Images and poems via Rupi Kaur‘s Instagram.

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