Here’s Why Rupi Kaur’s Poetry Sucks

Rupi Kaur is an Indian-Canadian poet who rose to fame for short enjambed poems, usually with themes about sexual abuse and self-love, posted on instagram accompanied by an original illustration. She is the frontrunner of a new culture of “insta-poets”, taking her success on the internet to ground-breaking commercial success in bookstores all around the world. For her readers, Kaur is a brave young woman speaking fearlessly and simply about extremely difficult themes. And I can see the appeal as someone who, too, has scoured social media like Pinterest and Tumblr for some light poetry reading, but to think that Kaur’s poetry is good poetry– that its writing is actually adding merit to the literary canon– is a gross overration of Kaur’s talent as a poet. If anything, her poems are visually stunning, give the illusion of depth, and she’s willing to give voice to the suffering of young women– but they are not actually good. Here are some of her poems:

Image result for rupi kaur poetryImage result for rupi kaur poetry

Kaur has mastered the art of making her poems seem profound, especially by capitalizing on the lazy technique of lines breaks. She writes moderately interesting sentences– usually about something taboo and difficult, like rape or confidence or being a woman of color to give an extra sense of thematic intensity– breaks them apart, strips them of punctuation, and adds an appealing image to compliment it to give the sense of a verse form. I can do it here:

a flower

grows sprouts bursts

in my heart

every time i

contemplate the

garden of

our love.

The original sentence: A flower grows, sprouts, bursts, in my heart every time I contemplate the garden of our love.

Kaur’s lazy use of line breaks has been ridiculed by many Twitter users:

Image result for rupi kaur meme

Kaur’s poetry states obvious, mildly interesting stream-of-consciousness shower thoughts in visually appealing ways. For a young audience who wants to read something about their problems about love or being a woman, Kaur is a championing figure who doesn’t shy away from these intense themes. Her poetry is extremely accessible and readable. You don’t have to read it multiple times in order to understand it, don’t have to crack open a dictionary in order to know what the words mean, don’t need an english degree to unknot the mess of allusions and symbolism and critical theory– it just means what it means. Doesn’t this make it good?

Well, no. Poetry isn’t good because it’s simple, and it’s also not good because it’s complex. Poetry is good because it says something interesting in an interesting way, that it is rich in meaning, and that it contributes to something about a larger poetic narrative. Consider William Carlos Williams’ poem “This is Just To Say”, which follows much of the structure and line-break pattern that Kaur does, but is wildly different in its quality:

 

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

 

There is a chaotic energy in this poem, a powerful subtext that needs to be unpacked, something playful and intriguing between the tension of its conversational tone and the almost murderous delight of stealing someone’s plums. This interest and interaction with form is utterly lost in Kaur’s work. Her poems are expected, obvious, and vacuous, painting an illusion of depth where there is none.

And perhaps you didn’t like William Carlos Williams’ poem about the plums. Maybe you’re someone who prefers Rupi Kaur’s poetry, and maybe you think it’s pretentious of me to decide that it’s actually quite bad. Perhaps you’re thinking that this whole poetry thing is extremely subjective– who gets to decide what poetry is good and bad, anyway?

If all literature was subjective, then, there would be no point to literary criticism and an entire discipline dedicated to the study of good literature. Poetry is not subjective. There is good literature and there is bad literature. Your experience of either can be subjective— as in, you can like bad literature and hate good literature, but your preferences don’t change the fact that it’s bad or good. There are certain measures for what it means for poetry to be good, and rupi kaur’s poetry simply doesn’t cut it. Of course, it’s great that a whole new wave of people are enjoying poetry and it’s been made accessible to them. It’s just really bad poetry, vacuous, full of lackluster language and the illusion of profundity, all set on the background of simple type font and a cute line drawing. That’s all.

(Images from Google Images)

Fareah Fysudeen

An English and Philosophy student trying to find her way in this big, big world. Aspiring writer, scholar, showtune belter, ardent hater of tomatoes.

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34 Comments on "Here’s Why Rupi Kaur’s Poetry Sucks"


Guest
Palash Bharti
1 month 3 hours ago

I couldn’t agree more. There a surge of such poets and poetry writing apps these days. Too frustrating to witness.

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Priyanka
1 month 13 days ago

Hater ..she is creative artist and straight attitude in writing that’s why millions of her writing copies sell out ..go and take some fresh air ..

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lysandra
30 days 2 hours ago

uhh have you heard about sylvia plath?

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Monica
5 months 19 days ago

I thought your post was very well articulated. This argument comes up a lot: “who is anyone to decide what poetry is good and what is bad?”

I agree that it’s not a good thing if poetry (or any art, for that matter) remains relegated to an ivory tower, and I’m glad Rupi Kaur has managed to popularize the idea of poetry with a new audience. But, as they say, you can’t break the rules if you don’t know the rules. If you throw out the rules and adapt the stance that “all art is good, it’s just subjective”, then you lose the point of literary criticism. I’m not an art theorist, but I don’t think it makes sense to justify lazy thoughts and cheap platitudes with “it made me feel good, so it’s good art”.

My take is that we need to be aware of the difference between our subjective reactions to poetry and an objective reality that takes into account historical knowledge of the field, has depth, and conveys meaningful messages without pretentiousness.

Guest
Layla
5 months 26 days ago

yes, you DON’T get to decide that Rupi Kaur sucks. Perhaps all these academic departments that get to sit and decide who is REAL poetry and who is NOT sucks. Maybe they’re all haters because nobody wants to read boring shit that takes too long to untangle.

Guest
Susie
5 months 8 days ago

ah dear.

Guest
Alan Wagstaff
5 months 30 days ago

Rupi Kaur

The poems of Rupi Kaur might well be prose.

With syntax fit for greeting cards, they sound
like self-help adages or diary woes.
Her self-obsessive mutterings are drowned
in ‘I’ and ‘me’: this ketchup makes them worse.

The salt and pepper words are strewn across
an artless page; they barely rank as verse.
In short, her candid* lines are dross.

They’re full of ‘sound and fury’ – but lack point.
If this is verse – ‘the time is out of joint’.

Alan Wagstaff

* I toyed with ‘candied lines’ but puns like this
might not connect; I gave the joke a miss.