Is Rupi Kaur's poetry good
Rupi Kaur made his breakthrough with drops of blood. The Canadian poet and bestselling author posted a self-portrait with translucent menstrual blood on her sweatpants on Instagram. Under the picture she wrote: "I bleed every month to make humanity possible". Thousands of women then shared the article and showed their own period pictures.
Almost three years ago, she was already a pop star in the Instagram cosmos: Rupi Kaur's channel has more than three million fans, she is the figurehead of a whole host of young lyric poets, who are mostly greasy in the social network Spread poetry, she is the most successful Instagram poet ever. And one of the few who has made the leap into the regular book market.
The fact that these texts have little to do with the hermetic, academic-occidental poetry, is definitely program. They do not address the institutes, but the masses and therefore work out a quality of the short verse form, which, incidentally, has also been accused of Jan Wagner's poems: the poem must also ignite when you print it on a coffee cup. The Instagram poets from the Rupi Kaur school marry poetry and spectacle society, as perhaps Salvador Dalí recently succeeded in doing.
And with Rupi Kaur, too, the persona is the center of gravity of the work: on Instagram, it presents itself as a kind of compound from Ivanka Trump and Lana Del Rey. She is always perfectly styled in the photos, she looks as if her life is continuously playing on the cover of Cosmopolitan, she wears long dresses and has a melancholy look. The difference to the cover girl of the analog media age is that she has a speaking role that she uses for poems about heartbreak, trauma, sexual violence and origin. As a toddler, she emigrated from India to Canada with her parents, a new beginning in a foreign country is a recurring theme: In Broken English writes Kaur: i think about the way my father / pulled the family out of poverty / without knowing what a vovel was / and my mother raised for children / without beeing able to construct / a perfect sentence in english (...)
And because the illustrations for the poems come from herself and are hand-made, filigree, shaky drawings, the poem tiles by Rupi Kaur on Instagram look from afar like a book of poetry by Günter Grass. Publishers and literary magazines nonetheless regularly sent her the texts back, which is why she published her debut "milk and honey" herself: She illustrated the poems, taught herself a layout program and then sold the work online via Amazon. The Guardian she once said: "There was no market for poetry about trauma, abuse, loss, love and healing through the eyes of a Punjabi Sikh immigrant."
"Milk and Honey" has now sold over three million times worldwide, has been translated into over 35 languages and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 100 weeks. Her second volume, "the sun and her flowers", is already selling well again. She travels from talk show to talk show like a pop star. One of her most famous poems was liked more than 200,000 times on Instagram and is now printed on mugs:Our backs / tell stories / no books have / the spine to / carry (women of color). Rupi Kaur brought poetry into the mainstream.
Instagram is the soft focus among social networks, everything is more beautiful, cosmopolitan and exciting than with the competition, where you have to be yelled at by confused paranoiacs in particular. An average of 80 million photos and videos are uploaded here every day. Between all the selfies, vacation pictures, baby, coffee mug, home furnishing photos and yoga exercises, the literary short form has also mixed up under the hashtag #instapoetry. The poems merge picture and word, they are often written by hand and photographed or staged as still lifes with drawings and photos. The posts are usually a mixture of diary excerpts and life help literature that fit into the square stream of images on Instagram.
Instapoin Yrsa Daley Ward has also achieved author status through this channel that shone so far into the established literary scene that even the "New Yorker" became interested in her this summer and presented her in detail. The former model with Jamaican-Nigerian roots reached 146,000 followers on Instagram, and her books are now published by Penguin. Ward addresses writer's block and self-doubt, LGBT issues and racism. One of the photos shows her wearing a hoodie that says: I am the tall dark stranger - I'm the big black stranger.
Instagram poets ultimately obey the laws of the network. Artist and audience are among themselves, there is no critical authority. Nevertheless, the platform made literary careers possible that would have been unthinkable in the conventional literary business. That is very good for poetry as a whole, because Instapoeten such as Rupi Kaur or Yrsa Daley Ward bring with their style and their themes an accessibility and inclusiveness in the abstract genre, which for a long time was reserved primarily for a privileged and intellectual class. And they lift literature into a new medium, perhaps similar to what Rolf Dieter Brinkmann once did, father of German pop literature, who embraced the new media back then, in the 1950s and 1960s, as a means of expanding one's senses and being. Sometimes you may have to turn away from traditions in order to renew a genre, or, as Brinkmann put it: "You have to forget that there is such a thing as art!"
Kaur and Ward may not be the Hemingways or Kästners of our time, but that's the great thing about them: They don't claim that either. The dependency on the Instagram currency "Like" leads to the fact that messages are posted that are known in advance that they will get a lot of response. That's not particularly posh. On the other hand, there has never been any reason to consider poets to be particularly noble. And besides, the accusation of professionalism against successful authors has always been the most boring of them all.
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