Rupi Kaur is a Punjabi-Canadian writer and performer whose work centers on themes of womanhood, abuse, love, and loss. She self-published her first collection, milk and honey, in 2014, and just two years later it became a New York Times-...
Rupi Kaur is a Punjabi-Canadian poet, performer, and illustrator whose work centers on love, race, violence, mental health, and femininity. Kaur is among the most well-known "Instapoets" who share emotionally charged and minimalist verse online.
Kaur was born in Punjab, India to a Sikh family in 1992. Anti-Sikh sentiment in Punjab and sustained violence following the 1984 anti-Sikh riots caused Kaur's family to emigrate, following many other Sikh families who left India. When the poet was three, her family moved to Canada. They eventually settled in Toronto's Brampton neighborhood within a large South Asian diaspora community. Due to financial instability, Kaur's father had to live apart from the family for some time, but eventually he too emigrated and worked as a truck driver.
English was a linguistic, social, and emotional challenge for Kaur in her early days of schooling. At first, she could not communicate with her peers because she didn't speak English. But once she learned, she had been silent for so long that she chose not to speak for a number of years. It was at this time that she fell in love with books. When she reached sixth grade, she was able to make friends and find her voice. She began writing poetry and even won a speech competition in seventh grade. She continued to develop this passion and performed at open mics and poetry readings. In college, Kaur studied Rhetoric and Professional Writing at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
In 2014, Kaur self-published her first collection milk and honey, which sold 15,000 copies. Eventually the book was republished by Andrews McMeel Publishing following Kaur's vault into fame after posting photos related to menstruation. Entitled "Period," this 2015 photo series sparked a heated debate on Instagram when the app removed it. For Kaur, this spoke to the way that women's bodies are portrayed and censored, and she reposted the photos alongside the message from Instagram stating that the photos violated Community Guidelines. The story went viral, catapulting Kaur into fame and leading millions to engage with her poems.
Kaur has stated that the feelings expressed in milk and honey are universal, but that she writes specifically from a female and minority perspective. For example, her poem "women of colour" reads, "our backs / tell stories / no books have / the spine to / carry." She describes her second collection, The Sun and Her Flowers, (published in 2017), as more of an outward journey in comparison to milk and honey. Similar to the first collection, this second collection deals with themes of love, trauma, healing, and femininity. Home Body, published in 2020, revisits earlier themes while also dealing with the consequences of Kaur's early success. Healing Through Words, published in 2022, offers guided exercises following themes of hurting, loving, breaking, and healing for readers to follow. Kaur's writing is characterized by spare punctuation, the use of all lower-case letters, and accompanying drawings. She continues to write and perform her work around the world.