Originally published at: https://blog.12min.com/the-sun-and-her-flowers-pdf/
As we promised yesterday – in honor of Rupi Kaur’s 26th birthday – we bring to you today a summary of her second collection of poems as well.
Published a year ago – almost to the day – the sun and her flowers is everything that milk and honey was.
And sometimes – even more.
Who Should Read “the sun and her flowers”? And Why?Once again mainly directed at the young female population, the sun and her flowers is a bit more mature and universal than milk and honey, tackling more immediate and less sex-dependent topics such as immigration and embracing one’s roots.
However, it is once again the girls – teenagers and young adults – who’ll enjoy this book the most.
Rupi Kaur BiographyRupi Kaur is an Indian-born Canadian poet, illustrator, and photographer.
She started writing anonymously in high school, but she gained a cult following only when she started publishing her poems on Instagram.
Self-published, her first collection of poetry – milk and honey – is, quite possibly, one of the best-selling poetry books in history.
Even though the sun and her flowers has so far sold in somewhat smaller numbers, it has still sold over a million copies – a fabulously staggering number for a poetry book in the 21st century!
Find out more at https://rupikaur.com
the sun and her flowers summaryTo quote Rupi Kaur, “the sun and her flowers is a collection of poetry about grief, self-abandonment, honoring one’s roots, love, and empowering oneself.”
Just like milk and honey, this one too is divided into thematic chapters: wilting. falling. rooting. rising. and blooming.
As is evident from the titles, the framing narrative is the life cycle of a flower which Rupi uses to explore the metaphorical deaths through which we all have to go in order to finally blossom.
BackgroundAfter the tremendous success of milk and honey, Rupi Kaur signed a deal with Simon & Schuster for two more books.
And then she started suffering from something which can be tentatively described as writer’s block. She knew that she wanted to write and she knew that she hadn’t lost her talent in the meantime.
However, she felt so much pressure that nothing she ever wrote satisfied her:
For months and months and months I couldn't write. I would write down a sentence and get so angry at myself because I'd think it was complete garbage. I'd rip it up. You know that typical writer thing everybody thinks we do, well that happened for quite a while. Then I thought this isn't working and if I keep working like this, I'm not going to get anywhere. I really had to switch around how I was thinking about the second book.
The Cathartic ExperienceAs Rupi explains in an interview with Jimmy Fallon, the thing that finally did it for her was when she realized she had time; that if she is genuine and honest, she will write another book that matters; and that she’s not writing poetry to earn money, so – there’s no rush, nor pressure.
To purify herself and start all over, she wrote this poem:
they convinced me i only had a few good years left before i was replaced by a girl younger than me as though men yield power with age but women grow into irrelevance they can keep their lies for i have just gotten started i feel as though i just left the womb my twenties are the warm-up for what i’m really about to do wait till you see me in my thirties now that will be a proper introduction to the nasty. wild. woman in me. how can i leave before the party’s started rehearsals begin at forty i ripen with age i do not come with an expiration date and now for the main event curtains up at fifty let’s begin the showIn the end, the sun and her flowers bloomed into “a grown-up version of milk and honey. The style is the same but [she goes] deeper. It’s more emotional,” as Rupi Kaur, fully aware, says in a Guardian interview.
Dedication and EpigraphRupi Kaur dedicates the sun and her flowers to her family: her father, mother, brother and sister. They – in the eyes of Rupi – “define love.”
The epigraph is a little gem, wedding the joy of life with the sexual experience, the carnal with the spiritual, the life cycle of the plants with what it means to be human, Rupi’s first book (notice the use of the word “honey”) with her second, the one we’re about to read:
bees came for honey flowers giggled as they undressed themselves for the taking the sun smiled
- the second birth
wiltingThe dictionary defines the word “wilt” as “to become limp or flaccid; droop.” So, this word encompasses in itself two very different states: explicitly, immediate damage but also, implicitly, past greatness.
A great title for a chapter which treats the subjects of heartbreak and loss.
A big part of sun and flowers, says Rupi Kaur herself, is about the grief of losing “what you think is the love of your life – and dealing with its raw aftermath. How do you redefine love when your idea of love is something that’s so violent? When your idea of passion is anger. How do you fix that?”
Well, sometimes you can’t:
i could be anything in the world but i wanted to be hisAnd sometimes everything you can do is pretend that your loss hasn’t happened:
in order to fall asleep i have to imagine your body crooked behind mine spoon ladled into spoon till i can hear your breath i have to recite your name till you answer and we have a conversation only then can my mind drift off to sleepAnd sometimes the pain is so great that it makes you want to annihilate yourself. That way, you can reimagine your own existence. And you can be someone else, someone you are not, but also someone he loves; that way, you can be his again: “what draws you to her/ tell me what you like/ so i can practice.”
As the poetess herself realizes during a therapy session in one of her longest poems yet – this is not the way to go. Because love cannot come from self-hate, it must be “figuring out all the kind sweetness we deserve.” In other words, love is not becoming someone else to be chosen – “love is knowing whom to choose.”
So, don’t worry – even though “[he] took the sun with [him] when [he] left,” – “you will make it to the end.”
Just “open the door to the rest of it.”
fallingOh, only if it were that easy! – that’s the leitmotif of the second chapter of the sun and her flowers. Because after loss comes not only pain, but also numbness:
i hardened under the last loss. it took something human out of me. i used to be so deeply emotional i’d crumble on demand. but now the water has made its exit. of course i care about the ones around me. i’m just struggling to show it. a wall is getting in the way. i used to dream of being so strong nothing could shake me. now. i am. so strong. that nothing shakes me. and all i dream is to soften.Robert Sapolsky defines depression as a “genetic/neurochemical disorder requiring a strong environmental trigger whose characteristic manifestation is an inability to appreciate sunsets.” It feels as if Rupi Kaur ruminates upon this definition when she writes thus:
Yesterday when i woke up the sun fell to the ground and rolled away flowers beheaded themselves all that’s left alive here is me and i barely feel like living
- depression is a shadow living inside meIt seems as if the poetess underrated the extent of a heartache, which, regardless of whether it is caused by a friend or a lover, is always the same: “a loss is a loss is a loss,” concludes Kaur soon, echoing the best-known Gertrude Stein line.
And the problem with losing someone is not the absence of that someone – it is the absence of yourself from your own body and the things you need to do to become your self again:
it felt like you threw me so far from myself i’ve been trying to find my way back ever sinceAnd the only way to transcend this state of loss is by finding уour way back to yourself and becoming full again. And that can only come when we realize that there are different ways in which one can be full:
you were mine and my life was full you are no longer mine and my life is full
[caption id=“attachment_18720” align=“aligncenter” width=“417”] Sam Smith liked this illustration so much that he tattooed it on his arm[/caption]
rootingThe poems in the third section, rooting, mostly focus on topics such as borders and the experience of the immigrant:
they have no idea what it is like to lose home at the risk of never finding home again to have your entire life split between two lands and become the bridge between two countriesBathed in her own (“my mouth carries two worlds – accent”; “broken English”) and her family’s experiences as immigrants, Rupi Kaur’s verses in this section exude with both poignancy and power. Because the immigrant is someone who has gone through hell, but also someone who has acquired so much strength through this suffering that he’s become so much more than the tender things we are:
what if we get to their doors and they slam them shut i ask what are doors she says when we’ve escaped the belly of the beastThere’s also a cry for compassion in rooting, because, in the words of Rupi, “borders/ are man-made/ they only divide us physically/ don’t let them make us/ turn on each other – we are not enemies.”
Hear that, Trump?
risingAnd then, out of the pain and the suffering – we rise, Maya Angelou style!
True, “the middle place is strange/ the part between them and the next,” but it’s also part of every transformation. So, “never feel guilty for starting again,” especially if you’ve been drained by your previous love.
Find someone who “energizes you” and “wraps you in the word special.”
And that someone must be – just like you – full on his own, because:
when you are full and i am full we are two sunsYou’ll know when that happens:
they should feel like home a place that grounds your life where you go to take the day off
– the one
bloomingAs Kaur says in one of her falling poems, “you do not just wake up and become the butterfly – growth is a process.”
And this one ends with the most straightforward discovery of them all: that you are enough.
“look down at your body,” Kaur implores, and “whisper/ there is no home like you/ – thank you.” “their concept of beauty/ is manufactured,” she adds later on. “i am not – human.”
This leads Kaur to an interesting revelation: “it is a trillion-dollar industry that would collapse/ if we believed we were beautiful enough already.”
So, why don’t we?
Why do we feel the need to go under the knife and become something that we are not? We are not each other’s competition – and until we realize that, everybody is losing.
You should not go gently into the good night: you should do your best to meet Death with a smile upon your face; as a winner:
when i go from this place dress the porch with garlands as you would for a wedding my dear pull the people from their homes and dance in the streets when death arrives like a bride at the aisle send me off in my brightest clothing serve ice cream with rose petals to our guests there’s no reason to cry my dear i have waited my whole life for such a beauty to take my breath away when i go let it be a celebration for i have been here i have lived i have won at this game called life
the sun and her flowers epilogueJust like milk and honey, the sun and flowers concludes with short prose with a very simple, but potent message. It ends thus:
i find it deeply important to accept that we are not the masters of this place. we are her visitors. and like guests let’s enjoy this place like a garden. let us treat it with a gentle hand. so the ones after us can experience it too. let’s find our own sun. grow our own flowers. the universe delivered us with the light and the seeds. we might not hear it at times but the music is always on. it just needs to be turned louder. for as long as there is breath in our lungs—we must keep dancing.Like this summary? We'd like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“the sun and her flowers pdf quotes”[bctt tweet="you left/ and i wanted you still/ yet i deserved someone/ who was willing to stay" username="get12min"]
[bctt tweet=“i notice everything i do not have/ and decide it is beautiful” username=“get12min”]
[bctt tweet=“you are an open wound/ and we are standing/ in a pool of your blood/ – refugee camp” username=“get12min”]
[bctt tweet="sometimes/ i stop myself from/ saying the words out loud/ as if leaving my mouth too often/ might wear them down/ – i love you " username=“get12min”]
[bctt tweet=“i will no longer/ compare my path to others/ – i refuse to do a disservice to my life” username=“get12min”]
Our Critical ReviewRupi Kaur is fully aware that she is not like other poets. And that’s what makes her so special: instead of creating something artificial (you know, as in: art), she has opted to create something immediate and sincere.
And people respond to that.
There’s a reason for that, of course: as David Foster Wallace warned in the wake of the September 11 attacks, we’ve become too insincere. And unless we do something about it, that can destroy us.
So, thanks, Rupi, for doing all that you can to stop that.