Rupi Kaur's Plagiarism Controversy Has Resurfaced After New Viral Video

Sara Belcher - Author
By

Apr. 12 2023, Updated 11:07 a.m. ET

Rupi Kaur
Source: Getty Images

If you've ever spent enough time on Instagram, you probably recognize the work of Rupi Kaur. Her books, Milk and Honey, The Sun and Her Flowers, and Home Body, were released in 2014, 2017, and 2020 respectively and likely flooded your feeds with "Instapoetry," or bite-sized single lines.

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In 2019, Rupi was recognized as the Writer of the Decade by New Republic, sparking ire due to allegations that she plagiarized her work from poet Nayyirah Waheed.

After she disappeared from the spotlight, a new video of Rupi reciting one of her poems has resurfaced while she's on tour, and with it, the allegations of plagiarism. Did Rupi Kaur plagiarize her poetry? Keep reading for everything you need to know about the situation.

Rupi Kaur
Source: Getty Images
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Rupi Kaur was accused of plagiarism — did she steal from a Tumblr poet?

After Milk and Honey initially went viral, people started noticing the similarities between her poems and those of poet Nayyirah Waheed. Nayyirah published her first book of poetry, titled Salt, in 2013 (one year before Milk and Honey was published), but frequently shared her own original poems on her Tumblr account.

It's hard to overlook the uncanny similarities between the two writers' works. Both of them use short lines, choppy sentences, and minimal punctuation in their work, as well as the frequent metaphors of honey and water. Babe.net did a comparison of their work, and many of their poems contain similar themes and structures, calling into question the validity of Rupi's work.

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rupi kaur poetry
Source: Instagram

Nayyirah says she reached out to Rupi about the similarities.

Nayyirah made a Tumblr post to acknowledge that she had reached out to the fellow poet, hoping for some clarity on the situation, but that Rupi shut her down and denied any allegation of plagiarism.

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"loves. it is with a truly heavy heart. i feel it is now time that i must come on public record with a statement regarding the author rupi kaur. and the growing unrest in our community regarding issues of plagiarism. paraphrasing. and hyper similarity," her post read. "in dec 2014 i did. professionally. and privately. address this author via email. concerning issues of extreme hyper similarity regarding their work. i addressed this. among other concerns with the author. in the hopes that upon awareness on their part. efforts would be made to cease and desist [sic]."

But she says that after multiple attempts to be civil in her discussion with Rupi, Rupi continued to resist. Rupi has even cited Nayyirah as one of her inspirations, making it clear she knew of Nayyirah's works before writing her own. 

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"In this correspondence. i expressed my upset. my growing discomfort. my disappointment and disbelief that as i had extended an professional acquaintanceship to them. a welcoming. a general trust. artist to artist. woc writer to fellow woc writer," Nayyirah wrote. "that trust felt it had been violated. and that boundaries were being crossed. it was also very hurtful and confusing... and i truly thought that they valued and respected my work. myself. and the work i do. and i feel that i have been utterly blindsided."

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Plagiarism allegations against Rupi Kaur have resurfaced after a TikTok of her went viral.

In April 2023, a video of Rupi reciting her poem "Honey" went viral on Twitter after being posted by Rupi herself on TikTok. Immediately, users began to criticize her for seemingly over-performing or being "cringey" and plagiarizing her poetry style from other poets.

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One user wrote, "A lot of people dislike Rupi Kaur because she’s cringy and her poetry isn’t very good. But it’s also important to remember that a lot of her poetry is seemingly plagiarized or 'heavily inspired' by other poems."

Another user, poet Pavana Reddy, showed a side-by-side comparison between one of her poems and Rupi Kaur's, with unmistakable similarities between the two. She captioned the photo, "that’s just embarrassing @rupikaur_"

Rupi has not responded to the recent allegations of plagiarism, despite taking down the original viral video from TikTok.

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