Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry that takes the reader through a time of pain and personal growth. The book is separated into four chapters, or categories: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing. In this order, respectively, Rupi Kaur releases her experiences with violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.
Rupi Kaur is not only a poet – she is a dancer and recently has gained much attention for taking a stance on Instagram. Kaur posted a picture of herself on a bed while visibly on her period. Instagram removed the photo twice, but Kuar came back with strong retorts each time by re-posting the picture and adding a commentary on the messages that Instagram was sending by deleting a picture of a woman in sweatpants stained by menstruation blood (a natural process, and a relatable experience), by stating that “i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak.” She has gained a huge social media following due to her spoken word, her youtube videos, and this instagram incident. She reaches out to her audience in a way that many writers do not. This contributes to the closeness she feels to those that engaged in her art, and vice versa. Kaur is able to establish a personal connection not only through her poetry, but through the internet and her daily live. Her feminist views spill into each aspect of her output, including her poetry.
“the next time he
points out the
hair on your legs is
growing back remind
that your body
is not his home
he is a guest
warn him to
his welcome again”
Kaur’s poems in Milk and Honey encourage women to become aware of and embrace the intelligence and natural qualities of their bodies. The structure of the book invites the reader to become comfortable with it. Every word is lowercase. There is no grammar. Most of the poems are short, and the language is simplistic and concise while still retaining their poetic nature. This contributes to the snug feeling that is communicated through the book. It has an atmosphere of modest honesty. The illustrations appear as complex doodles, adding to the imagery in her poems and simultaneously standing alone as, once again, simplistic but honest sketches. They do not take away from the poetry or distract from it, but compliments the words written next to them. Additionally, Kaur’s line breaks within each poem encourage the reader to take more pauses and to slow down in their reading experience and their understanding of the hurt, the solitude, and the love.
The last page in the book states that “milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them…” The poems have a spoken word quality to them. The word choice is easily understandable but able to communicate complex emotions. Although the poems are separated into categories, Kaur does indeed find the sweetness in the bitter. The category of the hurting, for example, is of course heavy with loss and abuse, but is directly followed by a category called the loving, showing that healing is a process, but is possible. We know healing can be an arduous process. And Kaur understands that. When asked where she draws her inspiration from, she stated that she is “grabbing the root of their emotion. And explaining something so complex in such few simple words.” Over the course of reading all the poems, Kaur manages to establish a familiarity with the reader. Her poetry focuses on the self but still reaches out toward the reader. It is astonishing how much is communicated in such short poetry and such simple words.
Rupi Kaur is a writer based in Toronto, Canada. She travels to speak and teach workshops on subjects such as the ones in her poetry – trauma and healing. If you want to learn more about Rupi Kaur and her work, you may follow her on social media through her website.