A picture of the author and her book.

By merely existing on social media, you have likely come across the work of Rupi Kaur: a multi-hyphenate known for her modern rendition of poetry and sprawling influence across Instagram and the internet.

Kaur has been credited as one of the first Insta-Poets, a category for writers who publish poems that fit into the grid’s perfect squares and are later profligated across hundreds of other accounts on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram itself. Her stardom, fostered on screens and reaching virality in 2015, has led to the publication of several commercially successful books. The first, milk and honey, notoriously outsold Homer’s The Odyssey in 2016. Her second, the sun and her flowers, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times paperback fiction best-seller list, where it remained for 70 consecutive weeks.

The 29-year-old Punjabi Canadian is almost ubiquitous with modern-day poetry and her influence is undeniable. Yet, Kaur’s work has been divisive. Her linguistic minimalism (some poems are brief enough to fit Twitter’s 140-character limit) has led to parody meme accounts, satirical tweets, and general critique.

Such criticism has not hampered Kaur’s advancement, though, either as a poet or as a social media icon. There is a universality to her subjects which critics hardly deny and fans will affirm. Kaur currently sits at a whooping 4.5 million followers on Instagram, is in the midst of a world tour, and awaits the publication of her fourth book, Healing Through Words.

This latest offering is a little different from Kaur’s previous works. The 300-page book is an immersive experience, asking readers to explore their own healing alongside the author. A set of over 65 curated exercises and guided prompts are woven between Kaur’s pieces of poetry. And, just like Kaur’s poems on Instagram and on paper, hand-drawn visual elements are peppered between words on nearly every page. A glimpse at the chapters also indicates that the book plays with genre; some portions of the book give insight into Kaur’s writing process, others focus on the world’s relationship to creativity and her personal journey to becoming a known writer.

Here, Kaur talks to Mashable about the power of poetry, her ambitions for the new publication, and how she hopes to continuously spark conversation with each stanza.

Has writing poetry been a major part of your own healing?

Writing is one of my favorite forms of therapy. I leave it all out on the page. It allows me to reflect on everything and sometimes I’m surprised about what flows out of me. Poetry in its most sincere form is thoughts that are eloquently formed together. Through writing poetry, I found community in so many others. 

What was different about writing this new book from your first book?

I always say, I wrote my first few books for myself but this latest one – this one is for my readers. Since it is a collection of curated writing exercises, I really had to reflect on the tips and tricks I use to help me write over the years. In the book, I share all of my writing secrets, anecdotes and insights.

You don’t need to be a writer to enjoy the book. It’s for anyone who wants to dig deeper into their personal experiences. I designed these writing exercises in a way that is meant to make writing easier, so that no matter what stage of writing you’re in, you can get something meaningful out of the book. I’m hoping that when people experience Healing Through Words, they’re inspired to add writing into their self-care practice.

My previous books were collections of poetry and they are the end result of what I hope people can also create through Healing Through Words

Do you think your approach to poetry has changed over time?

Absolutely. The approach changes with time. I’m not the woman I was when I wrote my first book, so that approach I used to create milk and honey didn’t work for my other books because I was in such a different place. I created a new approach for the sun and her flowers, and then a brand new approach for home body. Poetry and writing feels very instinctive for me so I try to listen to what I need in the present moment, rather than what worked in the past.  A lot of the elements stay the same though. I have to be in tune with my emotions and thoughts and feel inspired! 

How do you grapple with South Asian cultural taboos and topics through poetry? Is this a conscious choice in your new work?

As a proud Punjabi-Canadian woman, I approach South Asian cultural taboos very intentionally in my work because they are a part of my lived experience. My writing is a reflection of my identity and my thoughts. I write heavily about what it is to grow up in my community, and what my community has experienced. Although, I was told these were ‘taboo’ topics when I first started writing about sexual assault, domestic violence, and genocide, it was hard for me to understand, because they were so present in my daily life. It felt effortless to write about them because it didn’t feel like I had another choice. Writing is something that happens to me. The poetry that wants to be written comes through me — I don’t like to control it.

Writing has given me the power to speak up on issues I am passionate about, and there truly is strength in words. There is no progress without a bit of rebellion – I hope my words spark conversation and thought. I hope I’ve inspired a community and created a medium for people to feel safer to talk about these things. 

The cover of 'Healing Through Words'.

The cover of the book features a drawing by Kaur herself.
Credit: Rupi Kaur.

Why do you think Insta-poetry can be particularly healing for people?

I think so many of us grew up without reading literature that reflected our experiences. Poetry taught in the west, always felt so far away from my reality. Personally, I couldn’t find poetry written by a Punjabi-Sikh woman and immigrant from a working class family. I think social media has proven people are hungry for that.

The literary and publishing world was and still is extremely elitist, and exclusive. Social media has helped to democratize the industry and allow readers find work they resonate with that they weren’t finding in bookstores. It allowed authors who wouldn’t be accepted by traditional gatekeepers to find their audience. Social media has made this genre accessible and I think that is a beautiful thing because accessibility creates opportunity, and only through opportunities can we break barriers and progress as a community. 


I hope I’ve inspired a community and created a medium for people to feel safer to talk about these things. 

– Rupi Kaur

What do you hope readers – particularly those who’ve experienced their own trauma – will experience or take away from your writing?

I hope through my writing, readers feel less alone. Pain is unfortunately universal, but so is healing. I hope that my writing resonates deeply and reminds people that the human heart and life is fragile, but also resilient. I hope my work makes them feel powerful and seen – that everything will be okay in the end. 


Healing Through Words will be released on Sept. 27. The book can be pre-ordered here.

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