Saturday 3 September 2022 23:45 BST
Best-selling poet and social media star Rupi Kaur has slammed the decision by some UK universities to scrap English literature courses, calling it “horrible” and “sad”.
The Queen of Instagram Poets hopes activists and organizations across the UK will manage to ‘fight back’ and ensure students have access to literature.
It comes as a small number of universities have decided to close their English literature courses, while others are expected to scrap the undergraduate degree in the near future.
Speaking to Sky News, she said: “It’s horrible that they can do this. I went to university and studied English and it shaped what I do today, so it makes me sad that someone else who would have liked this path of study won’t have access to it.”
Among the universities that have been attacked for axing their degrees are Sheffield Hallam University, which is said to ax its English literature course, and Roehampton and Wolverhampton, which have also announced plans to cut their arts and humanities programs .
He came in the middle of an argument a vow by Rishi Sunak to phase out college degrees that do not improve students’ “earning potential”.
Originally from Punjab, Kaur, who rose to fame through social media, is now one of the most famous poets in the world with 4.5 million followers on Instagram.
In 2014, she self-published her first book, Milk And Honey, which spent 77 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sold over eight million copies worldwide.
Ahead of the UK leg of her world tour, she spoke to Sky News about her bestselling books, what to expect on the show and what it’s like to have her poems banned in Texas.
She said: “The energy in the UK is always welcoming and for me, coming to England feels a bit like home.”
When does it perform in the UK?
Kaur, who is on a six-month world tour, will perform eight shows across the UK.
She says her spoken word show “is still really new to most people.”
“It feels very intimate because I share personal stories and anecdotes in the midst of poetry,” she added. “It’s very much like a party in a way. Don’t expect the show to be quiet and polite – we’re loud, we’re clapping, we’re shouting.
“I’m totally engaged and have conversations throughout the show, and that’s what makes the performance so magical.
“It looks like a giant slumber party with all your best friends!”
Kaur’s early poems were marked by themes that would appear in all of his later work, such as abuse and healing, being an immigrant, love and loss, female empowerment, and self-esteem. of self, as well as the violence to which many South Asian women are subjected.
Forbidden poems in Texas
And it was because of themes, particularly around sexual assault, that Texas libraries and schools banned his first book earlier this year.
She said: “It left me speechless and it breaks my heart. It pains me to know that there are 15 or 16 year old girls in high school who would have found solace in a book like Milk. And Honey and Now won’t have access to it because some groups of people are afraid that it will inspire something horrible in people, which it doesn’t.
“And that’s where I’m hurt. I really feel for the communities that don’t have access to the literature that they would want access to.”
Kaour added the recent historic decision of the Supreme Court of the United States concerning the right to abortion is another example of where progress has been pushed back.
“I think there’s this fear that some parts of the world have, that are afraid of what an empowered person might look like,” she said.
“My books are just one of hundreds of books: there are books that talk about abortion or books that dive into themes of sex, or themes of LGBTQ+ communities – these are all often discussed on the ban and it just shows we’re headed in the wrong direction.”
It was the power of social media, especially Instagram, that propelled Kaur’s career to where it is today. She believes the platform is “an incredible tool to help democratize the publishing industry”.
“When I published my first book in 2014, there was very little room for someone like me, a Punjabi Sikh immigrant,” she added.
“Social media has allowed people who otherwise wouldn’t have had the space of goalkeepers to now take space. And so I feel like over the last 10 years, the social media has really helped level the playing field, but there’s still so much work to do.”