The evening I read with Rupi Kaur: A celebration of female poets / Amy King
Amy King writes about her experience of seeing Rupi Kaur live in Glasgow, Scotland, where she read with Rupi herself on stage. She celebrates the talent of Kaur as the 25-year-old poet who topped bestseller lists and who shares her work as a "feminist powerhouse of shared experiences".
'The Sun and Her Flowers' is the second of Rupi Kaur’s poetry books, and was the titular focus of her latest tour. Having returned to India after several months of exploring her heritage, connecting with her history and sharing her work, she stopped over in the UK for a whirlwind tour en route to Canada. Her final performance for this tour was in Glasgow - on stage in the stunning St Luke’s and The Winged Ox in the east end. Dimly lit in purples and pinks with a canopy of fairy lights overhead, Rupi stood for her performance under stained glass, encircled by flower petals in a beautifully intricate top with billowing sleeves and matching floor-length skirt. At ease in front of hundreds of eagerly adoring fans, she looked like she belonged.
The room was abuzz with excitement. I was so glad to have bagged seats in the second row. It was the perfect view to soak up the palpable emotion that dripped from Rupi's lips; rich like the honey she repeatedly makes mention of in both her published works.
She wasn't afraid to share her emotions - especially the negative ones. It’s all part of a process; the journey we take through 'The Sun and Her Flowers. Her focus is placed on growing from learning. She is sharing her feelings in the hope that others are better equipped to deal with heartbreak and feelings of displacement with less fear than she did - much like the mistakes she made as the eldest child to save her siblings from making those same mistakes (if you believe that story - and not that she was just a rebellious child like the rest of us).
One of the extraordinary things about Kaur’s work is her intuitive, relatable storytelling. She writes of shared experiences - be those of heartbreak, family, the female experience, or world views. As with any poetry performance, the finger clicks and foot stomps of appreciation for her words as she delivered them felt like a call and response with each new line.
Not only does Kaur relate, but she educates. Her work has built a window into brown women’s experiences and Bengali culture. She focuses heavily on the relationship between her culture and the females in it. Sharing these experiences candidly and harnessing our discomfort, she allows us to travel the world and feel the heavy struggles in our own bones - despite being sat in a church in the east end of Glasgow.
That’s another thing about Rupi Kaur - her enigmatic delivery. She does not read or recite. She feels and she projects. Stirring up emotions through shared experiences, she guides her audience on a kaleidoscopic journey of emotion. She writes for herself - that much is clear - but she writes for every woman who has ever felt lonely or lost; and offers them a promise of company, empathy and guidance.
She’s not afraid to get political, either. 'Boat' is one of the most painful poems to read, and even more excruciating to hear read aloud. In this current inhospitable climate for immigrants and refugees, Kaur has leaned on her own parents’ experiences as young adults emigrating to Canada and the struggles they faced in a foreign land with snow and just-out-of-reach opportunities. Mother Tongue - which she read set to music in her set - is a child’s apology for not understanding sooner how difficult and lonely their experience in Canada must have been. It’s clear she admires her mother greatly, and in many of her poems her love for this remarkably resilient and quietly strong woman shines through.
I had the most incredible opportunity to join her on stage and read 'to do list (after the break up)'. It’s a poem which, as a girl who’s had her heart broken, is all too relatable. It’s empowering and understanding, much like Rupi herself.
Setting Rupi Kaur’s performance apart from other poetry readings I have attended was her interaction with the audience. The stage wasn’t there for her to perform on - it was there for us to connect with her and see her and feel her energy. She talked openly and with ease about her family and friends and exes. She wasn’t there to perform, she was there to connect. Her poetry was just another storytelling vessel for her, and another way to connect with the people she shared the room with. And connect, we did. She loved her Glasgow audience almost as much as we loved her. She thanked us for our appreciation and we shared that love back tenfold
Her work is a feminist powerhouse of shared experiences, lessons and hopes for a stronger, more inviting future for women around the world. I sincerely hope she returns to the UK for a more extensive tour in the near future - I’ll buy my ticket in a heartbeat. It's not often you find words that, even on a page, reach down into your soul, set you alight and leave a lasting warmth emanating through your entire being. Hers did, and being able to imprint her own glorious energy to memory and revel in her delivery of such similar experiences to mine is something I could happily experience again and again.
Words by Amy King