Book Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Whilst this book of poetry is not the most recent of Rupi Kaur’s published words, it is definitely one that should be read and talked about. You’ll no doubt be left feeling uplifted, just at the very fact that a journey as bitter and sweet as this is actually relatable to many women around the world. Milk and Honey is one of the select few works that has helped catapult the medium of poetry back into popular culture, reaching a younger and wider audience during a momentous time of female empowerment and self-acceptance.

Most of us will have that every now and then feeling of wanting to curl up and spend a few moments reflecting on our experiences of love and loss. Some may spend some time scrolling through inspirational quote pages on Instagram or listening to their favourite motivational podcast. It is rare for me to find the balance, for example, of something that is melancholic in reflecting the bitter moments in our daily lives and does not fail to uplift and encourage me. So, be prepared to feel invigorated with this unique collection of poetry.

 

Largely based on Kaur’s own life experiences, the number one New York Times bestseller, self-published in November 2014, is wholeheartedly about survival. Resilience jumps off the pages at every turn and the collection exudes the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. The book is divided into four chapters with each included to serve a different purpose; deal with a new pain; heal a different heartache. The section titles are: ‘The Hurting’, ‘The Loving’, ‘The Breaking’, and ‘The Healing’. When reading, it became apparent that The Hurting and The Breaking were much darker in comparison to the other two which were more uplifting and encouraging. The raw emotion within these sections contained many aspects of what women go through, and have gone through, in life – including myself.

As an avid follower of Rupi Kaur before reading her debut novel, I was aware of her general style and knew that it would be something I enjoyed. Not only do I have a love of poetry and literature, I relate to her writing on a cultural level as well. Kaur is an Indian-born Canadian poet, writer, illustrator, and performer. Her Indian-Canadian heritage and the way she writes about these two parts of her identity colliding in relationship with friends, partners, and family is an integral element to her work that I identify with as a British-Indian. Her poetry details some struggles in navigating her culture and relationships which is something many readers are able to understand.

Upon reading this, it is no surprise that the book has been a brilliant success, finding a permanent home in the hearts of readers everywhere. Selling over 1.5 million copies, Milk and Honey has been translated into 30 different languages. Despite being a quick read given that most of the poems are extremely short, they retain a certain level of powerfulness that you will probably hold onto for a while after reading the last line. The book is a perfect read for a commute on the way to work, over a quiet lunch, or just before bed. It is an easy read that is simple yet lyrically moving.

The most memorable poems for me were the ones in the section ‘The Hurting’ since it was a harsh and devastating reminder of why it is fundamental to protect women, those who we know and those who we do not, from our current society and those who abuse them. After creating such a dark atmosphere I was happily surprised that Kaur was able to brighten the tone in ‘The Loving’ and ‘The Healing’. Kaur’s illustrations alongside each poem add much depth to the artistry and lyricism of her work. They are beautiful and add poignancy to each heartbreak and story of loss she discusses. Simplistic and stunning, a perfect combination of a book that promotes self-healing and follows life as a journey of highs and lows.

Perhaps Kaur’s strength is her superb ability to pour emotion into her poems in a self-help manner. It is very impressive. The collection as a whole is original, insightful and realistic simultaneously and it is certainly something I know I will keep revisiting whenever I need a little confidence boost or reassurance. I am most grateful for the experience Kaur has provided me with this short collection and I highly anticipate reading her second published collection The Sun and Her Flowers will not fail to live up to the bar Kaur has set so highly for herself.