On Sunday, November 12th, 25-year old poet Rupi Kaur came to Ottawa as part of her fall book tour. As a two-time New York Times bestselling author, Kaur is no stranger to big crowds; she read beautifully from her book, ‘the sun and her flowers’, to 600 fans at the Canadian Museum of History. Hosting the event was Komal Minhas, creative entrepreneur, film producer, and a friend of Kaur’s.
Kaur’s simple, heartfelt lines about feminism, love, relationships, and family have won her an audience of 1.8 million Instagram followers. For her performance, Kaur stood in a circle of red and white roses, and read with gentle purpose from ‘the sun and her flowers’. As with the book, she split her performance into five distinct sections: ‘wilting’, ‘falling’, ‘rooting’, ‘rising’ and ‘blossoming’.
Kaur’s poetry ranges from the sombre to the hopeful, and each reading was met with cheers and finger-snaps from the audience. In between performances, Kaur talked casually with the crowd, sometimes explaining why a poem was written, other times cracking jokes.
Kaur read celebrated works such as ‘hummingbird’, explaining it to be about a “certain someone”. She read, with acidic tongue, a poem about being told she’s “not like other girls” – while the poem ‘the sun and her flowers’ was met with huge applause. ‘To witness a miracle’ was dedicated to Kaur’s mother – while ‘legacy’, one of Minhas’ favourites, seemed dedicated to all women.
One thing that truly marked this performance from others on her tour was Kaur’s Q&A session with Minhas. After a short break, the stage was changed: the roses were replaced with two violet armchairs, with Minhas and Kaur cosily chatting. When Minhas, pointing to one of Kaur’s poems about sibling rivalry, asked about jealousy, Kaur said she wanted to shift the lens of competition between women. As she put it: “when one rises, we all rise.”
Kaur also writes about the immigrant experience. In our previous talk with Minhas, she shared that her father had ran for city council in Alberta, and won. When she called him, Minhas could hear the guilt in his voice. Recounting that story to the audience, Minhas told Kaur, “Whenever I hear ‘broken english’, I turn into a mess because what you so eloquently hit on in that poem is the immigrant experience, especially as a child. My dad doesn’t speak English particularly well, but over the years, he’s built businesses in the community, and done outreach. I, as his child, had to remind him how many times he’s been underestimated, and in how many ways. Every time I hear ‘broken english’, it brings me back to that.”
Truly covering a spectrum of topics, during their quick-fire round, Minhas asked Kaur about her favourite tour food (pizza), her most surprising celebrity fan (Ariana Grande), and her alternate dream job (designer, “but then the books got in the way!”). Minhas explained that every element of ‘the sun and her flowers’ has been designed by Kaur; everything from the thickness of the pages, to the cover, to the illustrations.
“Each book is a collection of poems,” Kaur said, “but the book itself is one long poem, running from front to back.”
Kaur’s second book is a wonderfully curated piece of work, and her final performance was entirely deserving of its several standing ovations. As Kaur writes: ‘there is nothing left to worry about/ the sun and her flowers are here’.
PHOTO CREDIT: Fatima Said