Even though I graduated from Mount Holyoke with a degree in English, I've never read much poetry. I thought poetry asked for a lot. I struggled with what felt like having to adjust the speed of my brain to someone else's.
There's one poem that I photocopied from a photocopy that Katy had had in college, that was pinned to the door of my dorm room for three years and is now on my refrigerator almost 10 years later. It's called "What If We Died in Space?" and it's by Al Kostalas (even though I've seen it every day of my life for almost a decade, I still had to walk to the kitchen to get the author's name). Read it here.
That poem came easily to me and I thought maybe there was hope for me and poetry. It wasn't introduced to me in an academic context – I just liked it because I liked it. (Although a little analysis probably wouldn't have hurt. A few weeks ago my dad was visiting. He read the poem on the fridge and said out loud, "That's so stupid." I said, "No, Dad, they're not actually going to die in space, she's just imagining..." He interrupted me and said, "But Hannah, we all die in space." Mind=blown.)
Rupi Kaur's poetry felt accessible to me in a similar way. Most of her poems are short, and they don't rhyme (I know not all poems have to rhyme). They're easy to read, and lethal that way. So much is conveyed with so few words.
Kaur is an Indo-Canadian poet and performance artist who lives in Ontario. I learned about her through Instagram. She'd posted an all-too-familiar image there – menstrual blood that had leaked through her clothing during the night. It can be seen on her sheets, and the back of her pants. (It's the upper left hand image here.) Instagram initially banned the photo, so Kaur called them out on Facebook.
"Thank you Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. ...You deleted my photo twice stating that it goes against community guidelines. I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. ...Some women aren’t allowed in their religious place of worship [when they have their period]. Out of their homes. To do certain things. And are told they are sick. As if the period is a common cold. Yes. This is here in North America. I have been hospitalized many times because of issues associated with my period. I have been suffering from a sickness related to my period. And ever since I have been working so hard to love it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Even thought it’s given me so much pain in the past few years. and they want to tell me I should be quiet about this. That all of this we experience collectively does not need to be seen. Just felt secretly behind closed doors. That’s why this is important. Because when I first got my period my mother was sad and worried. And they want to censor all that pain. Experience. Learning. No.
Their patriarchy is leaking.
Their misogyny is leaking."
Yeah. I wanted to hear more from her.
Milk & Honey, Kaur's first and only book of poetry, is divided into four sections: the hurting; the loving; the breaking; and the healing. I liked the first and the fourth best. The hurting is brutal and forthright, full of very short poems that are like holding a fistful of little razor blades. But they are so, so good. I folded over the most corners in this section.
I liked the loving. A few poems were so sensual I could taste them.
The breaking was bitter and sad, and so honest about the unpleasant parts of relationships that I was glad when it was over.
The healing was the most inspiring. The most full of power. (Female power, which is my favorite kind.) These I'd want to photocopy and put on my dorm room door. They reminded me of being at the women's march.
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