It's an indisputable fact that the media loves nothing more than the story of an overnight success. Typically, this tale follows a familiar trajectory: a young artist goes from obscure to ubiquitous seemingly overnight after a wildly successful breakthrough film or album. As most of us know, the quick success of an artist or musician is usually dependent upon their ability to couple exciting material with marketing savvy.
But with a loyal following of over 400,000 Instagram fans, a wildly successful book, and virtually no shrewd marketing strategy, 23 year-old Toronto-based poet Rupi Kaur has challenged our standard definition of what it means to become an instant media and literary darling.
In October of 2015, Kaur released the second edition of Milk and Honey, her inaugural collection of poetry that was first released in 2014. In its four sections, the book is a fresh departure from the sanitized feminism of Instagram affirmations, tampon commercials, and "because it's 2015" sloganeering. Her work addresses heavy topics like love, sex, trauma, loss, and healing and is imbibed in a written style that is disarmingly simple. With over 200,000 copies sold in North America alone, the enormous success of Milk and Honey is an obvious testament to the growing number of young women—and also men—who are embracing Rupi's message of resilience and self-love.
The young poetess's impact has also been revolutionary in ways that aren't immediately obvious. In early 2015, she successfully challenged Instagram's community guidelines after a photo she posted was initially removed from the platform because it featured a young woman's menstrual stain.
A brief scan of Rupi's Instagram page shows the accessibility of most of her poetry.
Since 2013, she has shared her work freely across social media allowing anyone with an Internet connection to consume her words. As a result, she's undoubtedly been a leader in the growing democratization of poetry alongside other poets like Atticus and Narriyah Waheed. Online reviews of Milk and Honey confirm that a large percentage of Kaur's readership are first-time poetry enthusiasts.
And while the unique format of Rupi's work allows her to engage with fans closely and in unprecedented ways, it also fuels the illusion that even as a person, she should be constantly accessible to her audience too. The impact of such an expectation became apparent last December when the poetess announced she would be taking an indefinite creative hiatus. In an Instagram post, she explained to her fans, "The writing doesn't need me right now. I need me."
Daily VICE's Aakanksha Tangri sat down with Rupi to discuss her poetry, the creative process, and what happens when a self-admitted introvert enters the unfamiliar landscape of (literary) notoriety.
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