Jone MacCulloch is today’s host. You’ll find Poetry Friday links at her blog, Check It Out.

Dear Friends and Poetry Friday bloggers, I have to begin this post with a thank you.

On Tuesday, I learned that THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY is the 2016 CYBILS award-winner for poetry. Many of you have cheered on my novel-in-verse for years — commenting on drafts of the poems on my blog, mourning with me when characters were cut during revisions.

I know how much time, thoughtfulness, and discussion goes into the process of selecting CYBILS finalists and an ultimate award-winner. Thank you to all of the judges for the work you do. I am honored!

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to a guest blogger, poet Elena Kalodner-Martin. Elena is a senior at Towson University. It’s her birthday today! Happy birthday, Elena!!

A few months ago, I read an article about a young, feminist poet named Rupi Kaur. (You can find that article here.) Not only has her first book of poems, MILK AND HONEY, sold more than half a million copies, but she enjoys near-rock star status among teen and new adult readers, poetry lovers, and women.

When Elena shared a Rupi poem on social media several weeks ago, I wanted to learn more. I invited Elena to guest post today, to look at Rupi Kaur’s work and discuss its importance to readers.

Rupi Kaur: Feminist, Instapoet, and Woman to Watch
By Elena Kalodner-Martin

If you are on Instagram, Tumblr, or even Facebook, you have probably seen at least one of Rupi Kaur’s poems. Known as an “Instapoet” for the fame she garnered by posting her poems online, Rupi Kaur is a twenty four-year-old Indian-Canadian author who has taken social media by storm.

She published her first book of poetry, Milk and Honey, in 2015. It sold over half a million copies and made the list for Amazon’s bestselling poetry, as well as the New York Times bestselling list for 25 consecutive weeks. Its themes of love, heartbreak, abuse, healing, and femininity speak to poetry lovers everywhere and have contributed to her hundreds of thousands of likes, shares, and re-posts on social media platforms.

Milk and Honey is broken into four sections; “the hurting,” “the loving,” “the breaking,” and “the healing.” Each poem is typed in a black font and situated on a white page, often paired with black line drawings. The simplicity and beauty are aesthetically pleasing and allow the words to leave their impact. Whether she is writing about the complicated toll that alcoholism can take on a family, how she often felt oppressed by the belief that women ought to be submissive and silent, or the ups and downs of sex and love, she has hit home for so many young women. She reminds us to be soft yet powerful, strong yet giving, and loving yet fierce.

There is no better time to read poetry that reminds us of the beauty left in the world and of the importance of love and inclusion, particularly in the political climate in which we currently exist. She is unapologetic, unafraid to call out the areas on which we can improve. She is bold and fearless, a feminist role model, an artist, and a poet. She focuses on encouraging women to build one another up, advocating for peace and tolerance, and challenging people to relentless accept and love themselves.

As a young woman in college, reading Milk and Honey forced me to examine my own thoughts and actions: am I gentle with myself? How can I create a culture of kindness around me? How can I incorporate beauty into the ugly and hard parts of life? Rupi’s poetry knows no boundaries – immerse yourself in her simple yet beautiful book and challenge yourself to live more gently, more softly.

P.S. Good news for her dedicated fans: she recently posted that she has been working on her second book of poetry, which will be available shortly!

Elena Kalodner-Martin is a senior at Towson University, majoring in English Literature and Creative Writing and minoring in Health Sciences. She is in the process of selecting a graduate program for her MA/PhD in Rhetoric and Composition and hopes to be a college professor. She is a lover of words and coffee.

Thank you for guest posting today, Elena. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation!



18 responses to “Guest Blogger Elena Kalodner-Martin on Rupi Kaur”

  1. Such powerful poems, thanks for sharing! (And congrats on the Cybils win!!)

  2. Congratulation, Laura, well deserved! Happy birthday, Elena! And thank you for this post. I will be actively seeking out Rupi Kaur’s poetry. =)

  3. Congratulations on the win, it’s much deserved!

    And thank you for sharing these powerful poems – I have heard wonderful things about this inspiring collection, and I can’t wait to get a copy of my own to explore and experience.

  4. Molly Hogan says:

    Congrats again on the win, Laura. Thanks, Elena for your wonderful post about Rupi Kaur. I was first introduced to her by my daughter. I’ll be sharing this post with her 🙂

  5. Thank you for this review. I am always looking for new poems, new (to me poets—as I have so much to learn). I look forward to finding these poems on instagram and her book. If Rupi Kaur is ever in NoVa, I would love to know!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Linda. Yes, I’d love to hear her read in person. There are videos on YouTube if you’re interested.

  6. Dear Laura,
    I am so happy to meet Elena on her birthday through this lively essay, and to hear about Rupi K. before her next collection emerges so I can catch up to her 1st, thanks to you.
    AND it is sweet to be here with a hug & smile for your CYBILS award for those heart-warming Emerson E.S. 5th graders who I admire. I knew the kiddos way back when. BRAVA! And arriving in your B-day month. You deserve a lot, but at least, an ice cream cone! xx

  7. Congrats, Laura. I have been appreciating your 10 word adventure. Rupi’s poetry is beautiful and mature. Wow.

  8. Linda Baie says:

    Happy Birthday, Elena, and thank you for sharing Rupi’s poetry. I will share with my friends, too. Thanks for having Elena visit, Laura.

  9. Tara Smith says:

    Congratulations, Laura, and bravo!
    My daughter introduced me to Rupi Kaur and I fell in love with her voice, too.

  10. Tabatha says:

    Happy Birthday, Elena! Congratulations on your graduation, too! My daughter is graduating this May, also, and making the big decisions about what comes next. Best of luck!

  11. First, huge congrats and hugs again, Laura – such an exciting recognition for your book!

    Second, thanks to Elena for the thoughtful post on Rupi Kaur’s poetry – Happy Birthday wishes, and Congratulations on Graduation! (Like Tabatha, I have one graduating from college in May as well – my son, also weighing next steps.) Wishing you the very best in your literary endeavors and academic adventures.

  12. Congratulations on the award for your book, I look forward to having my own copy!!!

    Thanks for sharing the writing of Rupi Kaur via Elana Rupi Kaur, she has a strong resonating voice, important especially for young women today!

  13. Oh these are amazing. I especially love the first poem. Will be looking for her work,

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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