Personally, I spend quite a bit of time on the internet. This is how I find many of my pleasure reads, and how I stumbled upon this little gem entitled, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I don’t usually buy my books (all of the librarians at my local library know me), but after lusting after this book of poems for about a year, I finally decided to splurge and purchase a copy – and I don’t regret it one bit. Kaur undertakes the daunting task of total candor with this collection by delving into the deepest aspects of human nature and she does a fantastic job of achieving it.
The collection is separated in four chapters – “the hurting”, “the loving”, “the breaking”, and “the healing.” “The hurting” features poems about sexual assault, mental and emotional abuse, and other trauma the writer experienced throughout her life. In this section of the book, the author discusses visits to a psychologist and how the sexual abuse/violence influenced the development of her identity. “The loving” then follows her as she falls in love, for what seems like the first time. This chapter features poems about infatuation, the giddiness of falling in love, and sex. However, the love story, sadly, is not built to last and eventually takes a toxic turn towards the end of the relationship – which leads us to “the breaking.” This chapter chronicles their intense breakup and all the conflicting emotions the author feels regarding his departure and whether to return to the relationship or move on. She contemplates if remaining in the relationship is worth the heartache and abuse her partner has put her through. This is one of the most truthful chapters in the book as it shows how easy it is for both parties to be toxic in a crumbling relationship, as well as how hard it is to stop loving someone who’s been abusive towards you. The book concludes with “the healing”, which is dedicated to empowerment and a form of resurrection for the author as she begins to put all of her pieces back together.
Altogether, Kaur presents a strong collection of poetry in this debut work. I would be lying if I said every poem is perfect or earth shattering, but my copy of the text is riddled with circled page numbers and scribbled comments next to the poems which tore at my heart and really resonated with me. It is evident how all of the poems included work together to create this very raw, very honest compendium of the journey she’s taken – including the mountain peaks and the valleys she’s encountered – to reach the place where she finds herself now. She openly discusses abuse, rape, losing her virginity, a failing relationship, abuse within this relationship, falling apart, and somehow trying to pick herself up again. Her poetry often reads as plain thoughts and moments of realization without the flowery language and euphemisms which often populate the “classics” of the genre. Some of the reviews I found before reading Milk and Honey described Kaur’s poetry as very “Tumblr.” I can understand the criticism because yes, Kaur’s writing style is not that of Shakespeare, or Cummimgs, or Yeats, but why must we degrade literature in this way? Why is a work considered Her poetry is not any less beautiful or influential because she skips conventions for raw, soul-baring honesty. I found that I could connect more to her voice and the way she wrote about her experiences than with some of the poetry featured in the literary canon. Kaur’s writing spoke to me more and I feel like her ability to create such an impactful work makes her a great writer
I think it’s clear to see I’m quite in love with Milk and Honey. Whether you’ve always read poetry or you’re brand new to the genre, it’s an accessible read. I pretty much devoured it in a couple of hours, but it took a few read-throughs and some digestion time to really soak it in. There were definitely a few standout poems the first time I read it, but when I went back and read it again and again, I found even more which resonated with me over time and I felt more and more like her journey was mine as well. The entire work deals with themes of assault, abuse, recovery, (female) empowerment, confidence, self-love, and feminism, but I don’t think that makes this something for only half of the population. In fact, I gave a copy of this book to my boyfriend for Christmas – thinking it was more my thing than his, hoping he would like it anyway – and it turns out he loved it! He’s even gone through and circled a few of his favorites to share with me. So I firmly believe that whatever your gender identity, you can find something in this book that will speak to you.
Final rating: 4.3 of 5
Edited by Sabrina Loftus