But I know what I like

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Last year we ran an in­ter­view with Rupi Kaur. The 20-some­thing poet and me­dia sen­sa­tion was in town for the Auck­land Writer’s Fes­ti­val.

Kaur came across as some­one new and ex­cit­ing, so I fol­lowed her on In­sta­gram – her medium of choice – ex­pect­ing her po­ems to add a rar­efied note to my scrolling. But I was dis­ap­pointed.

“I don’t get it,” I said to the PR woman who had or­gan­ised the in­ter­view. “It reads like bad self help.” “You’re not the tar­get au­di­ence,” she shot back. Touché! It’s true that Kaur is wor­shipped by young women. And judg­ing by the po­ems, they are young women who need to haul their self es­teem back into place hav­ing had it wrenched away and stomped on by mean ex boyfriends.

I can re­late to th­ese emo­tions! I’m not made of stone. When I heard that an­other on­line poet, Nayyi­rah Wa­heed, was launch­ing bit­ter pla­gia­rism ac­cu­sa­tions at Kaur, I fol­lowed her, think­ing maybe she was the real deal. Nope. More cry­ing into the du­vet. More hear-me-roar jour­nal en­tries. More groans from me. I felt like the clas­sic philis­tine who doesn’t know any­thing about Mil­len­nial heart­break but knows what they like.

I mes­saged bril­liant New Zealand poet Hera Lind­say Bird to im­plore her to get on to In­sta­gram and whip the asses of th­ese oth­ers. She replied: “Thanks! I like to keep my In­sta­gram pri­vate and full of nasty pic­tures of old mat­tresses and frogs though.” I ig­nored this eva­sion and sug­gested she get a dif­fer­ent ac­count to her per­sonal one. By this point I was imag­in­ing Bird as the most fol­lowed poet in the his­tory of In­sta­gram and me, as her man­ager, clip­ping the ticket. She re­sponded: “I need to write some shorter po­ems lol!” Lol!? Why does gen­uine tal­ent and mar­ket­ing savvy al­most never ex­ist within the same or­gan­ism?

But it turned out that, as Bird’s wannabe man­ager, I hadn’t done my re­search. A quick scroll through her Twit­ter re­vealed that just a cou­ple of weeks be­fore my ap­proach, she’d been on there de­fend­ing Kaur from her many haters. “Damn, why is ev­ery­one so f...ing mean about Rupi Kaur lately, call me back when you’ve sin­gle-hand­edly re­vi­talised poetry for young women,” she tweeted. I didn’t call her back. For an in­ter­view with Lang Leav, an­other young woman re­vi­tal­is­ing poetry, turn to page 8. Check out Sun­day mag­a­zine on­line

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