You may already be familiar with Rupi Kaur’s work and not fully realize it, just like I was before I read The Sun and Her Flowers. Kaur is Instagram famous for her bite-size, uber-shareable poems, so her name was familiar to me, but I had never followed her myself or read her NYT bestselling debut, Milk and Honey. I figured I’d finally give her work a shot when I saw that this follow-up collection was immediately available in e-book through my library. Ultimately, what I’ve come to understand is this: Rupi Kaur is good at writing modern-day aphorisms for the Instagram-hungry millennial audience. They may not be wholly original, but they’re certainly shareable.
The Sun and Her Flowers is a collection of poems (I use the term “poems” loosely), which range from one-liners to blocks of prose-like paragraphs, accompanied by simple illustrations. While the poems vary in length, her writing style is consistent throughout: she doesn’t use capitalization, rarely uses punctuation, and inserts line breaks in odd places.
One might think that bare-bones text would pull the reader along, that they’d float from one thought to the next; in reality, it can do just the opposite. There’s a reason why the English language has capitalization and punctuation, and there’s a reason why poetry makes intentional use of line breaks. Without purposeful grammar and form, the reader will have to stop to reread the poem, to pick apart its phrases, to make sure they’re getting the cadence right and understanding what the author is trying to say.
And what Kaur wants to say spans far and wide. She begins with a series of pieces about a difficult breakup, then moves on to others centered on her sexual assault, body image, her mother’s experience as an immigrant, and more general inspirational poems. There were certain ones, particularly those about her mother, that I enjoyed reading. Here are a few lines from one of those, just to give a sense of the sentiment:
do you think
if i begged the sky hard enough
my mother’s soul would
return to me as my daughter
so i can give her
the comfort she gave me
my whole life
Much of it is serious, and it’s sometimes really heavy, but I was uncomfortable with the juvenile-feeling “inspirational” pieces sitting in the same volume as the more traumatic ones. Take, for example, this:
you do not just wake up and become the butterfly
-growth is a process
For me, these unoriginal one-liners undermine the whole of the book. It’s a book that covers some of the darkest, most horrific and alienating of experiences yet–and I hate to say it–I had a hard time taking it as seriously as I wanted to.
On a more positive note, I enjoyed many of the illustrations in The Sun and Her Flowers. Kaur’s line drawing illustrations often evoked more feeling than the text. Plus, you can read the whole book in just a couple of hours, perfect for those of us who are behind on our reading goals for the year.
Book: The Sun and Her Flowers
Author: Rupi Kaur
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