Harman Kaur, a 21-year-old writer from Abbotsford, reads from her new book, Phulkari, a 150-page collection of her poems, which she says is a reflection of her identity as a Punjabi Sikh woman living in Canada. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News

Poet’s new book looks at her identity as a Punjabi Sikh woman living in B.C.

Harman Kaur’s self-published book speaks volumes to Punjabi Sikh women, underrepresented in media

“Mother / allow me to grow / and do not worry / about spoiled fruit.”

That is the closing verse of one of Harman Kaur’s poems, recently published in Phulkari: The Book, a 150-page collection of the 21-year-old Abbotsford native’s poems – and grow she has.

Kaur has developed a large online following of nearly 40,000 on Instagram, where she posts some of her poems, and that following has largely gathered over two-and-a-half years, since she began posting her works publicly.

“It wasn’t until it really took off that I realized that this could be a book, and that people would buy it, which they are,” Kaur said.

Phulkari was self-published in May and officially released in July, though she had originally intended to go through a publisher.

“But there were too many changes they wanted to make, and I felt like it kind of compromised my artistic integrity in a way,” Kaur said.

“[Self-publishing] is a lot of work because you’re doing the marketing, the editing, the designing, everything by yourself. … It’s a big investment as well, and there’s a lot of risk involved.”

But that risk appears to have paid off.

“The response is really, really good. I had a successful book signing a few weeks ago at the Abbotsford mall, and since then I’ve been offered book signings in Burnaby and Vancouver,” she said.

“When I first put out pre-orders, I put out 250 copies minimum, and the pre-order was sold out in less than two weeks. It was amazing, and it was far beyond anything I ever imagined.”

Part of that payoff – beside her strong writing abilities and the extensive work spent on marketing – likely comes from Kaur’s identity, one she says isn’t well-represented in media but which influences her writing.

“I get so many messages online, as well, after people read my book, especially from Punjabi Sikh women, who say that it’s really refreshing to even just be able to hold the work in their hands of a Punjabi Sikh woman,” Kaur said.

“I talk about universal themes as well, such as heartbreak and love and all that universal stuff, but with an added complexity of my identity.”

That’s also reflected in the name of the book; “phulkari” is the name for a type of flower work or embroidery in Punjabi culture, which appears in the design of the cover of the book. Each of the six chapters in Kaur’s book also comes back to that theme.

Read our sidebar to this story, Kaur pushing bast stereotypes in gang violence dialogue, below. If attachment does not work, please click here to go to that story.

She takes the name Kaur, which is given to all Sikh women – whereas all Sikh men are given the name Singh – and one of her poems defines her perspective of the name.

“I’ve had these girls that have messaged me and say that it is so surreal to be seeing a book with the name Kaur on it. It drives people absolutely nuts. They love it,” she said, also pointing to one of her own favourite writers, Rupi Kaur. “When I first held her book in my hands, I felt like crying, that I saw ‘Kaur’ on a bookshelf.”

Harman Kaur in a promotional photo for Chapter 1: The Fraying,
Harman Kaur in a promotional photo for Chapter 1: The Fraying, “an exploration of that which tears us apart,” in Phulkari, her recently published book of poetry.

(Preet Sanghera photo/Instagram)

Kaur didn’t always write for herself, saying she specifically wrote on universal terms, speaking in a broad voice to be identifiable with anyone who read her work. But that changed when she started her English degree at Simon Fraser University.

“I was such an English enthusiast, and then all of a sudden I hated it. And I just had to look back and say, ‘Why? Why do I hate this so much?’ And it’s because I was literally reading works of dead white people from the Renaissance, and I didn’t care about dead white men from the Renaissance. … I guess that encouraged me to even write more. I felt this void from not being able to read what I wanted to, and I just filled that void by writing my own stuff,” Kaur said.

“There are so many stories out there already for different types of people, and I just don’t think there are enough stories out there for people like me, so I’m just adding to that story.”

Writing in a way that expresses herself – penning poems that fit her rather than a generic one-size-fits-all poetry for the broader culture – feels and looks better, too, Kaur says.

“I think that when you’re writing, especially in forms like this, if you’re not writing what the truth is, it’s not satisfying. … I just had this urge to tell my story, and when you’re telling your story, you tell the truth,” she said.

The book can be found online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and signed copies of the book are available on Kaur’s website. Phulkari is also being sold at Chapters and Indigo in B.C., as well as the Coles bookstore in the Sevenoaks Shopping Centre.

“I made sure that was the first place it was available.”

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Port Hardy Volleyball club requests funding from Port Hardy council

The sport of Volleyball is alive and well in the North Island,… Continue reading

North Island Seniors Housing Foundation takes the next step towards getting Trustee Road land

Seniors rejoice, Port Hardy council is very much in favour of helping… Continue reading

Should aquaculture programs be offered at North Island College in Port Hardy?

“I think it would be very timely to have an aquaculture program”

Island Health issues press release regarding Port Alice Health Centre service changes

Island Health will be hosting a community meeting in Port Alice Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. in the rec centre.

Vancouver Island Regional Library wants to team up with the Town of Port McNeill to build a new multi-use facility

“A new library for the town, as you know, will quickly become an exciting hub of literacy”

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Committee member Russell Murray talks Oscar Hickes memorial hockey tournament

Oscar Hickes is taking place in Port Alice at the Doug Bondue Arena March 28-31.

LETTER: Is BC Hydro’s Step Two rate discriminatory?

“This charge is strictly a penalty and has nothing to do with the cost of energy.”

North Island Bantam Eagles hammer Nanaimo Clippers, finish playoffs strong

The Eagles wasted no time coming out and firing on the Clippers in the Feb. 9 game.

North Island Peewee Eagles win back to back games, move on to semi-final showdown

The Eagles are back Feb. 17 in a semi-final matchup against the Peninsula Eagles in Port McNeill.

Most Read