Rupi Kaur stepped up to the microphone to recite “What Love Looks Like,” a poem she wrote on her plane ride from Toronto, Ontario, to Seattle for her spoken-word poetry performance.
While Kaur said it was unrehearsed and the audience should forgive her, the rhythm of her reading inspired the audience to snap their fingers, echoing off the walls of the Multi-Purpose Room in the Viking Union.
Kaur, a 21-year-old student from Toronto, wrote and illustrated the book “Milk & Honey,” which is a compilation of poems released in December 2014. Since then, her written poetry has gained recognition from fans on social media, while she has booked performances around North America including New York City and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Her poems touch on issues such as loss, pain, abuse, femininity and love. Some of the poems include sketches Kaur created herself to complement her poetry throughout the book.
“I think it is really accessible because a lot of times, with poetry, it can be hard to navigate,” said Jazmine Smith, the assistant coordinator for the AS Women’s Center. “For someone who isn’t an English major or experienced with literature, this is a great read.”
Kaur often paused to address the audience of about 150 people to break the silence between each reading. At one point, the microphone wouldn’t cooperate, but her composure remained strong.
“This mic is like an ex-boyfriend, it just doesn’t want to work,” Kaur said as the audience joined in her laughter.
Her parents migrated to Toronto from Punjab, India when Kaur was three years old. This journey inspired her poem “Broken English,” and was the last poem she performed in front of the audience at Western. This poem is posted on her Youtube page, and has received over 5,000 views since its debut two weeks ago.
For freshman Maria Jose Palacios Figueroa, Kaur’s performance struck a personal chord.
“The last piece made me cry because with my family, we’re immigrants,” Palacios Figueroa said. “All of her comments about her mother, I was like ‘That’s my mom too.’ It was a slightly different situation, but I definitely identified with it.”
The AS Women Center’s coordinator Nardeep Kaur originally planned to have Rupi Kaur perform at the Underground Coffeehouse. The event’s announcement gained traction over spring break, causing the center to move it to a larger location.
“She is definitely a performer,” audience member Hannah Streetman said. “A lot goes into the spoken word rather than the written word.”
Audience members ranged from Western students, University of Washington students and other friends who heard about the event. A book signing followed for audience members to meet and take photos with Kaur.
Readers can visit Kaur’s website to read more of her poetry free of charge at www.rupikaur.com.