Rupi Kaur’s latest poetry collection, the sun and her flowers, is certainly a thick book. Thick, not in the sense of paper denseness and size, but in the sense of content. This book is so full with powerful words, that reading a couple of pages is enough to make you contemplate on the human experience, especially the female experience. The sun and her flowers is a collection divided into five chapters that represent the cycles of life: trauma, pain, survival, healing and rebirth through the life stages of a flower. That is why there is wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming.
If you have read her first poetry book, milk and honey, you might already expect that her seemingly simple language is capable of revealing magnitudes of poetic dynamism: “you must / want to spend / the rest of your life / with yourself / first”, and “i bleed/ every month / but / do not die./ how am i / not / magic./ –the lie“. Her poems have the power to tell so much in a few lines, something also present in her second book. The only difference is that in the sun and her flowers Kaur extends the themes of her first book by writing longer prose poems, equally powerful with the short ones.
Kaur deals with many different themes in her new book, but rape is a recurring one, especially with poems that include harrowing images. Images that need to be revisited in order to be overcome, because traumas become thin air when you talk about them, when you scrutinize them, analyze them, let them burn you inside out once more till there is nothing else left to burn, “to heal / you have to / get to the root / of the wound / and kiss it all the way up” (235). The ground will then start blossoming, transforming the pain into beautiful flowers. That is what Kaur talks about in this book, where she deals with trauma and pain with care, using words that soften the soul, but also words that are raw and honest. In that honesty is where the reader finds peace and serenity.
Kaur proves that she knows very good how to talk about the female experience. Many of her poems, especially in the last chapter, carry the incredible force to empower women, sexually and emotionally. She knows how to talk about how it feels to be a woman and she recognizes her own responsibility to empower the future generations,”i stand / on the sacrifices / of a million women before me / thinking / what can i do / to make this mountain taller / so the women after me /can see farther /- legacy” (213). Being a woman is “magic without magic” (202) that no one can figure out. It is deep and irreplaceable, an ancient force rooted in the Earth’s core. Kaur starts scratching the surface of this core with her writing pen only to reveal that the true beauty and magic of being a woman is to accept who you really are. We need to stop following and believing almost blindly the image (and be that image) that men want (or think they want), “we need more love / not from men / but from ourselves / and each other / –medicine” (228).
Kaur talks very powerfully about body positivity through her writing; she tries to remind all women that the way they are is already powerful enough that it can even bring down the beauty industry, “it is a trillion-dollar industry that would collapse / if we believed we were beautiful enough already” (224). What we, women, forget is to be unapologetic for who we are and how our bodies look like. That perfect female image we always try to follow can never be achieved, it is a construct that never depicted reality and how women really are, “their concept of beauty / is manufactured / i am not / –human” (225). Kaur’s point is clear: why don’t we try to accept what we really are and forget what others tell us to be? That is the way to true happiness.
In the fourth chapter, Kaur also talks about the importance of the roots, the people who came before us and made us who we are today. As a second-generation immigrant herself, Kaur recognizes why we all need to appreciate our roots and not forget them, “remember the body / of your community / breathe in the people / who sewed you whole / it is you who became yourself / but those before you / are a part of your fabric / – honor the roots” (146). As an immigrant myself, reading this chapter was very soothing and almost confronting with the choices I have made. Even if my story is very different from that of Kaur’s parents, I still went into deep thinking about where my roots are, how important they are to me, and how difficult it was for me to create roots in the new country I live in.
Kaur’s poetry is all about the human experience and the stages we go through with trauma. Like a flower, we will wilt, lose our petals and our strength with a breakup or heartache, and the loneliness and pain that come along. We will then fall, fall apart by hating ourselves for our bad choices and for the things that happen to us, for the abuse, the rape, the trauma. But, after all that pain and suffering we start realizing what matters in life, so we start rooting. We look for the people who are close to us, our families, our parents, what makes our life has meaning again. And we rise, again and again, every time higher and stronger. Till we reach the sky and burst with blooming. Blooming, for Kaur, comes with what it means to be a woman, what it means to be feminine and fierce. To bloom is to heal. From the inside to the outside. Because we have made it, and we have conquered one more cycle of life victorious.
what is the greatest lesson a woman should learn / that since day one / she’s already had everything she needs within herself / it’s the world that convinced her she did not (233)