5 river flow

How I Became A Poet – J. Kaur 

My name is Jasmine Kaur and I am a poet.

It’s taken me ten years to accept this fact. I still automatically correct people when they
refer to me as one, before having to correct my own mistake. I am definitely a poet.

During my childhood, so few of the writers I came across resembled me or had anything in
common with who I was. This played a role in finding it difficult to identify myself as a poet.
As a child, I used to read a lot, often as a form of escapism. I would write to block out the
reality I was existing in, but I never thought writing would become such an integral part of
my existence later in life.

As a young, ambitious, Sikh Punjabi woman, I have found my voice through poetry. But it
took a while to get here and the journey was not easy by any means. I remember a sleepless
night back in the winter of 2012: I was ploughing through Tumblr and this was the first time
I came across the work of Rupi Kaur. I’d finally found a writer I could relate to in some way
or form. Fast forward two years and Miss Kaur had taken the daunting steps to self-publish
her incredible debut poetry collection Milk and Honey.

Since the age of thirteen I have been battling severe depression and throughout the last five
years of my life, traumatic events occurred that resulted in life threatening consequences. If
I hadn’t picked up a pen and started writing poetry, I don’t think I would be alive and able to
share my experience with you. I used to stay silent regarding my struggle but poetry has
enabled me to lose my fear of being stigmatised. It gave me the opportunity to explore the
darker, more sinister parts of my psyche which I was too ashamed to discuss with a
counsellor or trained professional.

My poetry is my way of expressing my viewpoint on Sikh politics/political struggle, the Sikh
diaspora, Sikh history, female empowerment, human rights, rape/sexual assault, mental
health, taboo subjects in the Punjabi community, and any other issues that are personal to
me. I would fill countless journals but the poetry remained private. However, in 2013
(using Rupi Kaur as my inspiration) I began to upload my poetry onto Instagram. I then
decided to start sharing my work across multiple social media platforms and this sparked my
interest in spoken-word poetry. I haven’t looked back since. It wasn’t until I started sharing
my work publicly that I saw how diverse the world of poetry really is. I have met poets from
all over the world and established a network of friends who are truly dedicated to their
individual political struggle, who I connected with through my poetry.

It is imperative young people get to read work from writers they can identify with, whether
that be writers who look like them, sound like them, or have shared similar experiences to
them. Being a young woman from the Punjabi community, many of the things I say, do and
write are regarded as controversial. I am here to make a difference, to burn each and every
single ivory tower that stands in my way and smash glass ceilings. I am not the woman to
bow down to societal, familial or patriarchal constraints. I want to abolish stereotypes in the
personal, political and professional areas of life for women of colour like myself.
I made a promise to myself that I would one day self-publish my own poetry collection and
this finally came to fruition in 2018. Roses and revolution is a collection of my personal and
political revolutions, which will be available later this year.

I never thought I would become a poet and it definitely did not occur by accident. It was a
combination of different factors – it was a natural process. I strongly believe each Sikh
possesses innate artistic qualities as we hail from the great artists, scholars, poets and
musicians. Sikh scripture is entirely made up of poetry. To be Sikh is to love poetry.

One important piece of advice I have for anyone who wants to share their writing is to stay
true to who you are. I’m saying this from my own personal experiences. Do not exploit
another person’s work. If you use their art as your inspiration, you must give credit where
it’s due. It’s easy to rephrase or copy someone but it’s also harmful and offensive. You
never know the amount of emotional labour that has gone into a writer’s work. Most
importantly, write about what you know. There is no point trying to produce something if it
doesn’t relate to you somehow. Do it for yourself, or for a justified cause you are passionate
about.

Pick up a pen, paintbrush, instrument or whatever your weapon of choice may be and
discover your hidden talent. You never know who you are quietly inspiring.

Roses and Revolution will be coming out later this year. Follow Jasmine Kaur under her
poetry pseudonym fiveriverflow – https://www.instagram.com/fiveriverflow/.

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