Dear OSS Members,
I am excited to announce that July/August's pick for Our Shared Shelf is our first poet, Rupi Kaur, and her book of poems Milk and Honey. Rupi Kaur is an Indian-born, Canadian-raised poet and artist. She chooses not to use upper case letters or punctuation in her poems as an ode to her native language, Punjabi. She travels the world, including recently to her native country India, performing her poems and drawing crowds of hundreds. Both of her books, Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers, have made the New York Times bestseller list, which for a poet, is astonishing.
Over my lifetime, I have fallen in and out of love with poetry. Performing poems was what got me into acting (I had a primary school teacher that made everyone learn one a week, and eventually I won a poetry recital competition!) In secondary school and at university, I loved deciphering the codes of poems in class discussion, but I honestly wondered if poetry would continue to feature in my life outside of an academic context.
Enter poets like Hollie McNish, Sabrina Mahfouz and Rupi Kaur- I demolished whole books in single sittings. Unlike poems I have often spent weeks unraveling, Rupi’s poems are not designed to obscure meaning or entertain too much ambiguity - they hit you like punches to the stomach. They are immediate, visceral and not easily digested. I am loathe to say Rupi has made poetry “accessible” because while this is the truth (Rupi’s poems and illustrations fit well into those famously square shaped Instagram frames), there is nothing easy or accessible about what Rupi chooses to talk about. In fact, the topics she chooses, are audacious.
Here is a 25-year-old girl saying the unsayable… to hundreds of thousands of people:
that she has been raped, that at times she has been abused, that she bleeds. And sin of all sins… she actually likes the hair that grows on her body. Yes. She actually thinks it is beautiful. And that she is beautiful as God made her - what a transgression. That her body is her home and nobody else's.
The last chapter of Rupi’s book is called ‘The healing’. I am astounded to think what grew in the garden of her heartbreak. Her sharing, leadership and representation is so generous and brave. I will be forever grateful that she took subjects, that as a woman, I still carry shame about, and made them art. It took me an extra step forward and gave me new language.
All my love,
Don't forget, Emma is meant to film an interview with Reni Eddo-Lodge this month.