I was choosing a book as a present for a friend who was ill from breast cancer, my own heart heavy for her after seeing pictures of her in the treatment room. Life paused for me too as I reflected more on living and not regretting or even wasting a moment. It urged me forward to be even more kind to folk. A book and a woody candle would warm up her evenings and help her to relax.
I was browsing the poetry section, aware that she didn’t read poetry and found a book called Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – subtle and gentle white print on a black background with a new name I had never heard of, inviting me to pick it up…and I didn’t put it down. I remember having to sit down, flicking from one page to the next and becoming completely absorbed in it. Instantly, there was a connection, from one woman to another, as well as a writer speaking to another. She was accessible, to any female and even a reader who never read any poetry.
My friend loved it and I know this gave her some respite from the harsh reality piercing her chest and into her whole being. I prayed a verse from the Quran every day for her but the literary charisma of this very young and astonishingly talented female poet had the power to soothe, through an explicit and brave treatment of subjects close to the heart .
Then it was time to research about her life and how she began writing. I found online reviews and links that popped up on my Twitter and Facebook account, telling me how she had suddenly appeared on the poetry scene, a writer who had self-published initially (interesting, I thought, as I totally rejected the concept of self-publishing up to that point). She was discovered by a publisher and she was presented to the world as this beautifully honest writer and artist.
So what is it about this writer I so love? Her honesty matched with the skill of constructing images with words so sharp in a succinct way. She is very economical with words and that is the true poet for me, one who says very little and brings you down to hit the ground or raises you to the sky, in a millisecond of a moment. Some of her work is accompanied by sketches which doesn’t distract, but pulls you in even further. Her second book focuses a lot on female sexuality and the process of growing up and being in a cocoon of a culture which teaches you to hide and be ashamed. I have never been bold to enter this world for myself, to communicate on the page what it was like for me growing up and being constantly told not to laugh like this, talk like this, sit like this and especially when it was time for me to put my bike away because my breasts were emerging and I was too old to play out with the kids in the street.
I am now enjoying her second book The Sun and her Flowers, which I find to be even more honest and raw than the first in which the voice is stronger and less afraid of speaking the truth. As a writer myself, who consistently tries to remain true to herself, this is encouraging.