5 Poets To Read If You Like Rupi Kaur

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Yash Kesanakurthy

Staff Writer

Somewhere between starting her schooling in Saudi Arabia and finishing high school in Singapore, Yash Kesanakurthy realized that she disliked school. It was the fateful move to Vancouver, Canada for a BA in Economics (which, surprise, didn't pan out) that led her to the MA program in Children's Literature at UBC. She had fun immersing herself into the academia of children's literature but nothing beat the joy of writing for The Book Wars, being able to set aside classics and pay attention to the culture of contemporary YA. And now, everything is PB/MG/YA and nothing hurts. Well, some things hurt but nothing her bookshelf can't fix. Currently, she is working on her own YA fantasy novel and an all-ages picturebook. Her life goals include: getting a pet dog, getting published, and presenting you dear readers and Rioters with posts that engage and entertain. (Maybe not in that order?) Blog: The Book Wars Twitter: @SeeYashTweet

Or, I guess, even if you don’t?

(It seems there is no middle ground with Kaur, which I simply don’t understand? But that’s a different post, I guess.)

In any case, when Milk and Honey was first published — even before it got republished and repackaged *cough-with-the-same-cover-cough* — I’d posited that it would be the stepping stone into yet more poets to discover; perhaps even more Canadian poets of colour. From what I can tell by not-so-slyly observing the poetry section at the store I work at, this is not the case.

Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers came out this month and, look, to be fair, when I go to buy a Libba Bray book I tend to walk out with just a Libba Bray book…but sometimes I would love to be able to whisper recommendations that could draw readers deeper into the fun and weird medium that is poetry.

Consider this my whispering.

Cover of salt by Nayyirah Waheed

salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

The first book that I would recommend for anyone who likes Kaur’s work is salt. by Nayyirah Waheed. This poetry collection came out way back in 2013 and I still think about some of the poems to this day.

Waheed’s style is a little like Kaur’s, but she definitely has her own fascinating story to tell.

Cover of Kith by Divya Victor

Kith by Divya Victor

The second one I would recommend, if you like Waheed’s and/or Kaur’s book, is Kith by Divya Victor. Aside from having some of the most interesting poems I’ve read on the topics of race, multiculturalism, and various kinds of exile, it is also a most beautiful book. I just love that cover and I don’t know how to explain why. Except maybe that the tangle of people and the borders that contain them suit the content of the book?

Cover of Admission Requirements by Phoebe Wang

Admission Requirements by Phoebe Wang

My third pick is Phoebe Wang’s Admission Requirements. I used to walk by this gorgeous cover every day when I was an intern at Penguin Random House. When I was done there I ended up getting a copy of Wang’s book and after reading it, I felt for the first time something of a twinge of jealousy that I had been an intern at (my dream imprint) Tundra and not McClelland & Stewart, which published this amazing poet. This is Wang’s debut and it’s a good one, dealing with the idea of landscape and geography, both the human kind and the natural kind. Highly recommended!

Cover of I Have To Live by Aisha Sasha John

I have to live by Aisha Sasha John

My fourth pick is I have to live by Aisha Sasha John, which I haven’t yet read, but am so excited to get into that I couldn’t help adding it to my list. The book was nominated for Canada’s Trillium Book Award for Poetry in 2015 and the synopsis provides an excerpt from what I believe is the title poem:

“A demand and promise; an obligation and challenge; a protest and call: I have to live.

Juiced on the ecstasy of self-belief: I have to live.

A burgeoning erotics of psychic boldness: I have to live.

In which sensitivity is recognized as wealth: I have to live.

Trumpeting the forensic authority of the heart: I have to live.

This is original ancient poetry.

It fashions a universe from its mouth.”

NGL, the very first line caught my attention.

Book cover of Injun by Jordan Abel

Injun by Jordan Abel

My last pick, another one that is in my TO BE READ IMMEDIATELY OR ELSE pile, is Injun by Nisga poet Jordan Abel. From what I understand, Abel compiled public domain pages of western novels published between 1840 and 1940, found every instance of the word “Injun” used, studied the context in which they were used, and then rearranged the found sentences into a long poem called “Injun.” Both the poem and the work around it is supposed to be included in the book, and I know it will break my heart, but I do think I need to read it. And also everyone else, because we have to talk about the work that went into this!

Who else would you add to this list?