Modern poetry

A couple of months ago, I was at an Amazon book store at the Time Warner Center perusing different books, and I came across a collection of poetry by Rupi Kaur, a 20-something best-selling Canadian-Indian poet-illustrator-performer who travels the world sharing her poetry and doing spoken word. She made a name for herself via social media, particularly her Instagram posts, which juxtapose both her poetry and her illustrations. I wasn’t sure what to make of her until I realized I’d read a few of her short poems before. These are some examples (they are much more effective with their accompanying illustrations, though, as the illustrations are meant to heighten the feelings derived from the words):

the irony of loneliness

is we all feel it

at the same time

together

 

Then, there’s this one:

i don’t know what living a balanced life feels like

when i am sad

i don’t cry i pour

when i am happy

i don’t smile i glow

when i am angry

i don’t yell i burn

the good thing about feeling in extremes is

when i love i give them wings

but perhaps that isn’t

such a good thing cause

they always tend to leave

and you should see me

when my heart is broken

i don’t grieve

i shatter

Rupi Kaur gets a lot of criticism from people who view poetry and writing in a more traditional way, but I think part of her appeal is her simplicity, the fact that she uses simplicity to push meaning and emotion onto you very quickly, and what better and more effective way of doing this than doing it via an Instagram post in 2018? In today’s world, attention spans are shrinking; so few people I know even properly read news articles from start to finish, even the shortest ones, and even just skim headlines (yes, not even read headlines in full).

One of the few modern day poets who has been able to make a comfortable living I’ve read, Billy Collins, who is also a former poet laureate of the U.S., was once quoted having said, “Certainly one thing a poem can do is give you an imaginative pleasure by taking you places very suddenly that prose can’t take you, because poetry enjoys the broadest and deepest and highest and most thrilling level of imaginative freedom of any of the written arts … (poetry) connects you with the history of human emotion. That’s why at critical points in our lives, at funerals or weddings or other rituals, often a poem is read. The poem shows us that these emotions, love and grief, have been going on through the centuries; and that the emotion we’re feeling today is not just our own emotion, it’s the human emotion.”

I think this holds true with Rupi Kaur — her words, however short, however sliced into whatever lines and italics and lack of punctuation that people want to slam, immediately inject emotion into you. These words, reduced down to their purest form, can take the most emotionally numb out of that state and make them feel once again. And that’s poetry.

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