The Instagram Poet Outselling Homer Ten to One

Molly Fischer in The Cut:

02-Rupi-Kaur.w512.h600.2xWalking the Manhattan blocks near NYU, the poet Rupi Kaur wears a loose cream-colored suit and an air of easy self-assurance. Her hands rest in her pockets, her kimono-shaped jacket hangs open over a cropped black turtleneck, and she comfortably strides her realm: the realm of college freshwomen who have recently been or may soon go through breakups. She looks like someone prepared to tell you convincingly that “you / are your own / soul mate,” to quote one of her poems in its entirety.

Most professional poets cannot expect to be approached by fans. But Milk and Honey, the 25-year-old Punjabi-Canadian’s first collection of poetry, is the best-selling adult book in the U.S. so far this year. According to BookScan totals taken near the end of September, the nearly 700,000 copies Kaur has sold put her ahead of runners-up like John Grisham, J.D. Vance, and Margaret Atwood by a margin of more than 100,000. (In 2016, Milk and Honey beat out the next-best-selling work of poetry — The Odyssey­ — by a factor of ten.) And because Kaur’s robust social-media following (1.6 million followers on Instagram, 154,000 on Twitter) has been the engine of her success, she is accustomed to direct contact with her public. So, when a young woman stops her on the way out of Think Coffee — “I love your work!” — Kaur greets her with a hug, poses for a selfie, then turns and calls back to her publicist. “She preordered the second book!”

On the gray late-summer day when we speak in New York, the October 3 rollout of Kaur’s second collection, The Sun and Her Flowers, is well underway. Entertainment Weekly has published an exclusive look at the book’s cover. Kaur has shared photos of its design (white background, black text, geometric sunflowers) painted across her nude back. And, she reports, the physical copies themselves will go to press the following day. She had scarcely finished finalizing details — “I’m so particular about the spacing and the page and the color” — when her publisher called to tell her that 18 truckloads of paper were on the road. “It really just takes a giant community,” she says. “Some random dude or woman driving this truck is helping millions of people have the book in their hands.”

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