There is no doubt that social media has the power to turn around the fortunes of people converting commoners into celebrities, and if you are able to strike a connection with your followers, the digital fame can open several avenues for you. For 25-year-old Canadian Indian writer and illustrator Rupi Kaur that means headlining sold-out shows around the world, snagging two book deals, one of which remained a New York Times bestseller for over a year, and acquiring a spot on BBC’s annual list of 100 Inspirational and Innovative Women from around the world.
Despite raising some eyebrows, Kaur, who composes simple but beautiful verses that are devoid of punctuation, like “On the last day of love my heart cracked inside my body” and “Do not look for healing at the feet of those who broke you,” is mostly winning a lot of love on social media. The writer, who was born in India and moved to Canada with her family when she was four, has over 160,000 followers on Twitter, and 1.7 million Instagram followers, including pop star Ariana Grande.
Her work, which is a collection of personal poems and illustrations, focuses on everything from love to heartbreak to abuse and healing to female empowerment and immigration.
Read one of her poems on immigration:
“Perhaps we are all immigrants
trading one home for another
first we leave the womb for air
then the suburbs for the filthy city
in search of a better life
some of us just happen to leave entire countries.”
“Milk and Honey,” Kaur’s first book, was self-published in November 2014. The self-published edition quickly topped the charts, which led to Andrews Mcmeel Publishing releasing it under their name in October 2015. The book has since been a runaway success, selling over 1.5 million copies, and finding a home in the hearts and homes of readers across the world. “Milk and Honey” has been translated in over 30 languages.
“Milk and Honey,” according to Kaur, is the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It takes readers through a journey of the “most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.”
Her long-awaited second collection of poetry, “The Sun and Her Flowers,” which is more political in nature, released Oct. 3.
Though people are now falling in love with her words, the Toronto, Canada-based Instapoet, who studied English at the University of Waterloo in Ontario before moving on to social media, first hit the headlines when a photo of her showing a menstrual stain on her clothes and sheets was taken down by Instagram.
Kaur took issue with that and hit back at the photo sharing site by writing this message on Facebook, “I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you.”
The photo was part of Kaur’s project to “demystify the period” and depict that menstruation is still a taboo subject, through a series of photos.
She later took to Facebook to say that “Their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is leaking. We will not be censored. I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. My womb is home to the divine. A source of life for our species.”
Kaur is aware that not everyone will be a fan of her work.
“A lot of my readers online are younger,” Kaur told The LA Times, adding that she isn’t bothered by the label Instapoet, but because her popularity grew from Instagram, some readers will always dismiss it out of hand. “I think it comes from this lack of understanding and this fear of the new. Because you have a form of art that is so traditional, which is poetry, and then you have something that is so new and nontraditional, people are still trying to figure out, which is social media,” she said.