Rupi Kaur: Poet of the Decade

I wanted to say

something clever

about ……………. this

but first I barfed

in my mouth a little

only to find

you there.

CBC News covered this debate back in 2018, while also making note of supporters of her and Instagram poetry in general; Kaur’s first book, Milk and Honey became a New York Times bestseller, selling over three million copies and translated into 35 languages, while numerous young poets cited her as the reason they started to write and publish at all.

At the same time, the National Endowment for the Arts reported that the amount of adults reading poetry grew by 76 per cent between 2012 and 2017, which the Washington Post partially linked to the popularity of poets like Kaur. 

Actually, that was gratuitous. I am fine with people reading and even loving Rupi Kaur. I just wish news outlets would stop reporting things like “the amount of adults reading poetry grew 76 per cent…” when what happened was the number of adults reading Rupi Kaur grew by 76 per cent. I had hoped her little doodles and accessible, bare bones style might encourage people to pick up other works by contemporary writers with merit, but I’m pretty sure they just picked up works by other Instagram poets. If you go into Chapters, the endcaps and half the poetry section (which is, let’s be honest, two shelves, max) is stuffed with books that would have failed a night school mail-in Intro to Poetry course.

That said, I remember back when the CBC started changing its programming to “attract a younger audience” I thought to myself: why? Just wait for the audience to grow into the CBC. Maybe we should apply that here. Let a generation enjoy their 10 lines of pseudo-poetic platitudes and hope a percentage of them grow into deeper work as they age and start to seek a way out of the shallow end of the pool. We’d still end up with significantly more readers from this generation than the last few. Food for thought?

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