But I know what I like
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