Today is National Poetry Day. Now, I know a lot of people don’t think very much of poetry. Probably scarred by the hours of trawling through the AQA GSCE Anthology, shouting “BUT WHY DOESN’T IT RHYME” at a black-and-white picture of Carol Ann Duffy. However, for me, poetry is a form that is closer to how we think. Whilst a novel often needs context or development for us to understand its ideas, a poem offers an opportunity to explore a moment or an emotion in all its intensity, and then move on. Like a thought, feeling or a Kit-Kat.
So, to celebrate, October’s book of the month is poet Rupi Kaur’s second collection: the sun and her flowers.
Divided into five chapters, it takes the reader through a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. Whilst it begins by following the narrative of a toxic relationship and breakup, as you read on it becomes clear that this book is an honest look at love, loss and longing in all its forms. In falling, Kaur reminds us that “you do not just wake up and become the butterfly”, depicting the weight of heartbreak, depression, trauma, and the self-hatred born from these experiences. In rooting and rising, she explores and accepts the aspects of her identity that make her who she is, from her parent’s experiences as Indian immigrants to Canada and her cultural heritage, to learning to love as an equal. The collection culminates with her blooming– expressing and projecting her found self-confidence to the world, through topics such as equality, self-love and the body.
“this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
in order to bloom”
Kaur’s work gets quite a lot of stick from people dismissing her simple, unpunctuated poems of often just one or two lines (and decision to publish much of her work via her Instagram account) as cliched and lacking real literary merit. But I disagree. Her condensed, uncontrived style is what I like about her poetry, and why I chose this collection to be this month’s book. The messages and experiences she shares aren’t muddied by complicated, contrived poetic techniques, encouraging contemplation of how her words relate to you, rather than how they appear on the page. It also allows you to read the book in the way you want; if you want to read the whole thing at once, you can. But if you’d rather flick through, reading the ones that jump out at you in your current situation and curating you own mini-collection, go for it. I also love the little doodle illustrations- like the poems themselves, they are simple, suggestive.
Overall, I think this is a really beautiful, heartfelt collection. The simple style gives the pieces a sense of immediacy- like each one has been written them down as soon as the thought came into her head. It has its flaws, of course, but I think that’s what makes It feel so genuine, and why I have returned to again and again.
Even if this review hasn’t inspired you to look up Kaur’s work, I hope it’s encouraged you to read some poetry.
Every month, we share a book we have found helpful- whether it has helped to lift us out of a dark place, build up our mental health toolkit, made us laugh or was simply too brilliant not to share. And we want you to get involved too! Let us know what you thought of this month’s book in the comments below or on social media (use the hashtag #ECBCBookClub), or if you have an idea for a book you’d like to review- get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.