Rupi Kaur strikes out with her third book


Baljit Singh, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rupi Kaur addresses many current topics and shares her own illustrations in her third poetry collection “home body.” The poet, as seen in “home body,” is known for creating “Instapoetry,” or a style of poetry that is fit for sharing on social media platforms.

Muneebah Umar, Editor-in-Chief

Despite being her third book, “home body” by Rupi Kaur is a glorified spin off of her original book “milk and honey,” with minor changes that don’t contribute anything meaningful. In “home body,” Kaur reaps the factors that made her poetry popular, and the result of that is she fails to show any development as a writer. Instead of sharing thought-provoking and personal poems, “home body” is almost 200 pages of generalizations aimed to appeal to the masses without doing anything beneficial. Kaur tries to address current issues, but doesn’t contribute anything original to the ongoing conversations around the number of topics she attempts to “breakdown.” 

“home body” is divided into four sections: mind, heart, rest and awake. Throughout these sections, Kaur attempts to address subjects such as capitalism, misogyny, climate change, self-love, self-worth, abusive relationships, productivity and self-care. The sheer number of topics she tried to cover was ambitious but something that could have been executed had the poems been somewhat insightful. Instead, the format of “home body” makes it seem that Kaur was preoccupied with making her layout “Instragrammable” so much so that she forgot to put effort in composing her poems. A lot of her poems, especially the ones that tried to be “deep,” reminded me of performative activism. 

Performative activism is a term that refers to activism done by someone for face-value rather than to create change. Many people refer to Instagram accounts, like the infamous Feminist account, as examples of this. A major factor is the “aesthetic” present in these accounts. Not that making things visually appealing is inherently wrong, but in “home body” that seems to be Kaur’s primary focus. She has one sentence poems about mental illness, such as  “you are lonely / but you are not alone,” that are paraphrases of statements that have been on millions of girls’ VSCOs well before Kaur published “home body.” The irony present in so many aspects of the book was also not lost. There were poems about climate change that were on entire pages despite only being a few lines long. 

Kaur does make genuine efforts to address issues that I’m sure she had difficulty discussing. However, I think she was misguided in what she thought readers wanted. Poetry is about revealing the personal and making readers think. It doesn’t have to always have to be about complex, multi-layered topics. When poetry is about those topics, it should still have a level of specificity to remind readers that they aren’t reading writing that just anybody could have written.

Kaur tries so hard to speak to everybody that she loses individuality and writes poetry that anybody could claim they wrote. Issues such as racism, climate change and misogyny do exist–Kaur does not need to reiterate that. I want to know how they relate to her in a way that isn’t so vague or generalized. Not even that, I want to read poems by Kaur about the mundane aspects of her life, and the things that make her happy. When I read a poetry book I’m not reading to find tips or advice for myself. This isn’t a self-help book: I don’t need to be spoken to directly. I’d rather find solace and inspiration through Kaur’s own life told by her. She doesn’t need to write massive generalizations about things people already know. 

Kaur is a well-established individual who many people love and hate. Her life story is one that I’m sure is interesting and something that people want to know more about. I’m disappointed that instead of trying something new, she followed the same formula she used for her past two books. While money-wise her established formula creates results, being a successful writer should not be synonymous with being creatively stagnant. Kaur should not underestimate her readers’ interest in her. She could be successful in discussing the more serious and difficult parts of her life, as well as things that may seem boring or uninteresting. The key for her is focusing on herself and not on things everybody experiences. Trying to relate to everybody loses any emotion present in her writing. While she might implement new techniques in the future, “home body” is strike three in her writing career thus far.