on the power of poetry: an evening with rupi kaur

By Jenna Houston

Current student Jenna Houston reflects on a poetry reading with bestselling poet Rupi Kaur.

‘when you lose yourself, that is the hardest thing to lose’

It was with these words that Rupi Kaur introduced the first chapter of her book ‘the sun and her flowers’. I was fortunate enough to be able to secure tickets to see Rupi Kaur at a poetry reading in Leeds on the 22nd of March and it was phenomenal. There was something so empowering about acknowledging a loss of self. These words and the feeling that came along with it set the tone for the rest of the evening. I had never been to a poetry reading before, and was unaware of the ‘etiquette’ regarding how to show that what the poet is saying resonates with you – and so the other members of the audience are what truly made the event feel so incredible, with people clicking their fingers at moments that spoke to them while Rupi Kaur was reading. It was interesting to listen for the lines that had meaning to different people and wonder ‘why does that line speak to you?’ It truly felt as if I were in a room of close friends, with all of us simultaneously mesmerised and united by the words spilling off the pages.

Rupi Kaur’s writing chronicles many of the intense feelings that are tied up with love, loss and growth but it does so in a way that concentrates less on the hurt, and more on growing out of the hurt. The reading focused mainly on her most recent publication ‘the sun and her flowers’ (2017) but she also read some popular pieces from her debut book ‘milk and honey’ (2015). What resonates in ‘the sun and her flowers’ is the power of one’s own self-doubt, of acknowledging it, processing it, and transforming it into self-love. This theme is at the center of Kaur’s writing and there is also an emphasis on what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, and also a woman of dual identity.  Her parents belong to a Punjabi Sikh heritage and Kaur herself identifies in that heritage, but having been raised in Canada, the crossover between two different cultures is frequently discussed through anecdotes, and the idea of being ‘rooted’ and family heritage is illustrated frequently in her poetry. This idea seemed to connect very well with this week’s reading of The Woman Warrior on the third year American Literature module and reinforced the importance of telling these stories of dual identity and for them to be heard and understood. For me, this poetry reading simply highlighted the power of poetry and spoken word, and the way in which both are able to bring so many people together.

think of those flowers

you plant in the garden each year

they will teach you that people too

must wilt




in order to bloom