OPINION: ‘Insta-poet’ Rupi Kaur is overrated

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The Barnes and Noble top-seller shelf presents the most popular books. Rupi Kaur's debut poetry book has stayed on the bestseller shelves since its publishing in 2014. (Katelin Woods | Collegian Media Group) Photo credit: Katelin Woods

If you are familiar with poetry, you have probably come across the bee-speckled little black book, “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur.

This poetry collection has not moved from the bestseller shelves since it was published in November 2014.

“Milk and Honey” originally gained traction due to a mass of free advertisement generated by individuals who reposted Kaur’s work on social media, primarily Instagram. This is what classifies Kaur as an Insta-poet.

I eventually got carried away by the mainstream right to my local bookstore, where I purchased “Milk and Honey” and Kaur’s second book, “The Sun and Her Flowers.”

What I discovered doesn’t deserve the hype.

Her one- to three-line poems say little. Meanwhile, her unknown poetic counterparts can say much more in a single stanza.

I acknowledge that Kaur’s readability has made poetry accessible to people who would normally not pick up a poetry book. However, where is the artistic integrity in vacant poems that are devoid of depth?

There can be value in pieces that lack glittery alliterations and puzzle-like structure, but Kaur’s work fails to hold onto creativity.

You can tell a lot about a culture by the art that captivates it.

I’m not the gatekeeper of what is considered art, but I think our society doesn’t want a challenge.

The success in Kaur’s poetry shows that people choose convenience over quality. There’s convenience in a poem that makes you feel deep without requiring much difficulty to digest.

The admiration of Kaur’s poetry says to me we value the surface level over pieces that dig deeper. We see vulnerability as an uncomfortable property of weakness, so we read poetry that itches our introspective scratch and carry on.

I think Kaur has the opportunity to say more, but that would require her to move beyond Insta-poetry. By doing so, would she have reached the same platform?

Her work could of not reached this magnitude without the esteem of the masses.

Can I blame an artist who recognizes a system that will never truly appreciate intricate and thought-provoking work?

These ideals undermine expansion artistically. Our culture will stay stagnant if we do not properly support those who truly challenge us to expand our creativity.

I do not want to discourage those who find value in Kaur’s work. If you get something out of it, by all means continue to do so. However, I challenge you to pick up a book by a more complex, and slightly less popular, poet.

I recommend Rudy Francisco’s “Helium,” Neil Hilborn’s “Our Numbered Days” or “Depression and Other Magic Tricks” by Sabrina Benaim.

All of these books have simplistic approaches that are relatable yet stand their ground artistically. They are poetry with a pulse.

Katelin Woods is the culture editor and a junior in theatre and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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My name is Katelin Woods and I graduated with a Bachelor's of Arts in public relations in May 2020. I worked as the first audience engagement manager of the Collegian from 2019 to 2020 and took photos for the multimedia staff. I was also the founding editor of the culture desk in 2018. I am an enthusiast of a poetry, pizza roll and pajamas.