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On the new wave of poetry on social networks and the dispute between Nayyirah Waheed and Rupi Kaur

March, 23; 2021. By
This time we come to discuss a topic that is currently emerging in the marketing, social networking and poetic environments of the moment, that is, the strong irruption of poetry on social networks (mainly Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram), and the dispute for the throne or hegemony of said poetry between the poets Nayyirah Waheed and Rupi Kaur.

Having the editor of this publication - and who writes the article - read almost in their entirety the two literary works in contention, that is to say, salt. of Nayyirah and Milk & Honey of Rupi, we can issue a verdict, without intending that it becomes dogma, and knowing that it is simply the opinion of the editor of this publication.

The background is as follows: African-American poet Nayyirah Waheed self-published her book salt. in 2013 and this consisted of a series of poems, all with a very similar structure: there were no capital letters, the punctuation was only made up of fullstops, and at the end of each poem there was a line with a long dash in front of it. The themes are water, immigration, and others, of a deep and interesting nature. There is very little written about this poet and there is no photo of her published about her, in a possible marketing attempt to increase the myth about herself.

Then there is the book Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur (self-published in 2014, a year later), a Canadian immigrant of Indian origin, which is composed of a series of poems with no capital letters and almost exclusively punctuated with dots and some drawings illustrating these poems. Some have the same structure as those of Nayyirah, that is, what we have already said and a final line with a dash in front of it. The themes are much more superficial than in the case of Nayyirah and to the taste of this editor they are less interesting.

Now comes the importance that these two poets have for social networks, mainly Instagram, who need winners on these issues to generate movement in their own networks so that their users do not get bored. But of course, poor Nayyirah does not fall within the canon of Instagram success since she does not like to show her image and that weakens the medium as a whole, the photos, the image, worth the redundancy, of the social network itself. And then Rupi enters the scene. Rupi offers content similar to that of Nayyirah but she likes to place her photo and puts a face on the whole phenomenon. And that seems to be a plus for Instagram. To the detriment, always from the side of this editor, of poetry, since Nayyirah's lines are, in the editor's opinion, much deeper and more intense than those of Rupi, who seems to only know how to write about teenage heartbreak and how to overcome them.

Nayyirah accused Rupi of plagiarism, although this is not the word, since legally unauthorized copying in poetry and the literary medium, as the reader well knows, is limited to outright plagiarism, that is, copying each word one behind on the other, capturing in this way both the idea and the form of this idea; and to the copy of the idea written in other words (for example, as if we were to take Don Quijote from Cervantes and re-write the book, without not a single word coinciding but being the same idea and development). Therefore, there is no unauthorized copying (either plagiarism or copying of the original idea), but everything that is not punished by law was copied: the structure of the poems, only using lower case letters, punctuation by fullstops, and the final sentence with the hyphen in front. Perhaps we could say that Rupi's only contribution was to italicize the last sentence.

Anyway. This whole issue is muddying and staining the beautiful idea of a resurgence of poetry in English and written by women, but behind the hand of Instagram, which needs images to be able to create interest in something, and the disputes between these two poets, who at the same time copy the British-Somali Warsan Shire female poet, things are becoming quite denatured and we are very much afraid that the phenomenon will fall into one more marketing operation with little soul and less substance. We will see how events unfold.
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