Basically I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
I knew that Kaur was an Instapoet success with millions of followers which had spawned two books of poetry and invitations to numerous writer’s festivals around the world. I knew she appealed to young people and that she was single-handedly turning them onto poetry. Our languishing poetry section at work was actually getting a work out for the first time in a long time, thanks to the requests for her two books.
I also knew that there was some debate about whether or not Kaur actually wrote poetry or not.
I am not a poetry expert in any way shape or form. I have enjoyed some poets and their works over the years because they move me or their elegant use of language blows my mind or the describe something familiar in such a new and novel way that I see something old and known in a completely different way. And I can see how Kaur’s work would and could do this for many, many people.
She speaks simple truths, aphorisims even, about being female. Kaur explores relationships, love, sex and belonging. Her work often delves into darker themes of abuse, self-abuse, break-ups, depression, loss, grief, the beauty myth, difference, the immigrant experience and racism.
There is nothing difficult about her writing style, although her lack of capitals does my head in (showing my age I know!) Most of the pieces are like the one above. Brief pieces of advice illustrated by Kaur – a perfect Instagram post – that reaches and touches her target audience.
In The Sun and Her Flowers, Kaur has a few longer pieces that could be called observational poetry. Thankfully, I’m past a lot of the angst that Kaur writes about, but her words brought much of it racing back. All that insecurity, indecision and apprehension mixed with wild hope and bittersweet moments. False starts and wrong turns and so much time wasted worrying abut stuff that you can’t change.
A part of me wishes I could go back and tell my younger self and all these young women that this is just a phase of life that passes. It feels like forever, but it’s not. It feels like for keeps, but it’s not.
But I don’t, I can’t, because everyone has to work that out for themselves in their own way.
Reading the words of someone who is in the middle of all that, helps me see the journey of my own life and makes me grateful to be long past all that. Middle age is not without it’s own angst, but it’s tempered by experience, maturity and growth. What seemed so important at twenty or thirty is no longer of concern at fifty. Other things take over. I’m sure my seventy year old self will smile wryly at the worries of my fifty year old self one day.
That’s how it goes.
And that’s what was missing from this collection of poems and aphorisms for me. A sense of future. A sense of perspective. The big picture. Reflection.
Kaur gives us a snapshot of a moment, a detail of now. Her voice is authentic, accepting and lyrical. I can see the appeal. And she’s turning a generation onto the idea of poetry, nothing wrong in that at all.