Rupi Kaur shares her love for Madison, delivers powerful performance
Standing proudly onstage in a halo of red and pink rose petals, Rupi Kaur shared stories of love, loss and everything in between.
The New York Times best-selling author and illustrator stopped at Memorial Union on Saturday to perform poetry from her newest collection “the sun and her flowers” and her first collection “milk and honey.” The Guardian newspaper says Kaur is “part of a new generation of Instapoets – young poets publishing verses primarily on social media.”
While waiting for Kaur to arrive, audience members spoke to each other anxiously with copies of her books in hand.
“Her poetry is raw — it’s real,” said Andrea Sherman, a recent UW–Madison graduate. “She addresses so many topics that other people may be too afraid or too timid to speak out about. It’s very unafraid, unashamed poetry.”
Placed in front of a screen of hand-drawn flowers and relaxing colors, Kaur spoke of the inspiration behind her poems, often referencing personal experiences from her past relationships and friendships, as well as stories about her childhood and immigrant family.
Because she is only 25 years old, Kaur also seemed to serve as a source of inspiration to the audience of mainly young women, many of whom laughed while hearing her stories as if they were having a conversation with her.
Between reading poems from her books, which were deep, thought-provoking and centered on female empowerment, Kaur provided some comedic relief in a genuine and bittersweet tone — from reflecting on breakups to talking about what it was like growing up Punjabi in Canada, she shed light on the intimate details of her life.
“I feel like I’ve been too honest with you guys,” she said sarcastically. “Don’t think I’m weird.”
Kaur was also unapologetic in telling the audience how much she loved the city of Madison, despite not knowing what to expect before arriving. When speaking in comparison of her previous show in New York, one thing she said she noticed, in particular, was the polite nature of Madisonians.
“I’m blown away by all of the kind conversation and all of the smiling,” she joked. Kaur even alluded to working on her next collection of poetry in Madison, saying “This seems like a place where I could write a book. I’m going to find a library here and begin writing book three.”
Later, she went so far as to say she loved Madison so much that she’d move here.
“If anyone wants to be roommates, you can apply on my website — actually, we can all be roommates,” she said in a light-hearted tone.
Kaur took her love for Madison to social media, too.
Sharing the sights of the city with her over 3 million followers on Instagram, she posted pictures of herself browsing the Dane County Farmers’ Market and even wearing the classic Wisconsin cheesehead hat.
Others followed suit, also taking to Instagram to share their memories of the show and the profound impact her performance had on them.
Kaur promised she would come back to Madison eventually and exited the stage on a sentimental note.
“Connecting is the thing that I love to do the most in the world,” she said. “And I’m so grateful that I get to connect with such beautiful and honest people.”
As she concluded her show, there was a feeling of solidarity and hope in the theater. In an act that seemed to reflect that energy, the audience cheered loudly and bid her farewell in the kind, Midwestern fashion she noted earlier in her show — with a warm smile and a standing ovation.