The poet on the rituals and words that inspire her to write her own rules about creativity and life.
– KEYS SOULCARE
When best-selling poet Rupi Kaur speaks, millions of worldwide fans — including Alicia herself — know to listen. And so, when we were given a chance to chat about the ins and outs of her creative process, we came with an endless list of questions — and ready to take every insight to heart.
Read on for a peek at her ongoing writing journey, profound lessons from her favorite poet, and more.
What makes you a lighworker?
There are moments of what [writer] Elizabeth Gilbert calls “big magic.” In those moments, I feel like the universe — which I think of as light — takes control and sends poems through me. The closest I might get to describing it after it’s done is, “How the hell did I write that?!”
[Those] pieces that come are also my favorites, and end up being really popular. I can never “force” myself to write them — the universe decides to choose [me] as a vessel. I think a part of being a lightworker is being able to make yourself available, vulnerable, and able to receive that magic when it’s there for you.
How do you set yourself up to be in that space?
I can’t be in that space when I’m really anxious, because I’m worried about a hundred different things. My heart is racing, and when my nervous system is on high like that, I can’t be vulnerable — I’m blank.
So, I meditate. One of my friends, Molly Birkholm, did a practice called yoga nidra with me. We would meet every Monday. About an hour into it, we would start a dialogue where she would ask me questions, I would answer them, and she would write all my answers down for me. After each session, she would send me what I wrote. It was super powerful, and something I did for months throughout 2020.
You’ve often said that people inspire your work, too. How?
I feel like everyone has a story, and everybody goes through tough things in their life. And while I hate that — I hate that people have to hurt that deeply — that’s what makes me want to hold them. That’s what inspires me to write.
How do you work through your raw ideas and inspiration?
A poem can almost feel like a gunshot: it can have so much impact, even though it’s so small. Usually when I free-write a piece, I end up saying ten things at once. Eventually, I have to ask myself, “What is the one thing?”
You’ve also talked about how your Punjabi heritage has informed your non-traditional writing style — specifically, the structure of your poems.
There was a time where I was writing so much about my Punjabi experience, being an immigrant, and my upbringing. But, I also carried this weird guilt that I was trying to express those authentic experiences in the colonizer’s language, [English]. And, wouldn’t it be more authentic if I could do it in my mother tongue…?
There was a six-month period where I tried — and it was terrible and embarrassing. Then I realized that if being an immigrant is to be a bridge between two worlds, that my style could honor that. I took words from English and then I took things from my Punjabi language — like the fact that there’s no distinction between upper and lower case [as well as] no punctuation other than periods — and I married the two as a sort of parallel metaphor for what me being an immigrant means.
What’s it been like working with Alicia on bringing Keys Soulcare to life?
It’s so reassuring that we all need the same things, no matter where other people are [in life]. To hear about her spiritual journey, rituals, and routines makes me want to be even more committed to mine.
It’s also just exciting to [put] content and products out there that make me — and us — feel good. Personally, I’m no longer consuming things that don’t. Everything I have in my space right now has a story. I feel like there’s like a piece of her magic and her brilliance in my room, or anywhere I take them.
Can you share a few texts, poems, or passages that keep inspiring you to create?
A text that has always inspired me is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Some of my favorite poems from it are when he talks about joy and sorrow, and how the two are actually the same. How there’s no need to fight them, because when joy is with you, sorrow’s just sitting on the side of your bed, waiting for joy to go to sleep. I send his pieces to all of my friends.
What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to find that flow, and find their way into a creative writing practice?
I would tell new writers to sit down for two to five minutes, breathe deeply, and take yourself through your entire body. See how your arms are feeling. Check in with your heart. Check in with your legs. And then open your journal.
When you’ve cared for your spirit and opened your mind, where does your inspiration take you?