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Mace & Crown | March 23, 2017

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Book Review: 'Milk and Honey' by Rupi Kaur

Elizabeth Proffitt
Contributing Writer

When given the chance to read poetry, most people scoff and decline, citing that poetry is far too boring or dry. Feminist poet Rupi Kaur takes this convention head-on in her book, “Milk and Honey,” proving that poetry isn’t all that hard to swallow.

“Milk and Honey” was first self-published in Nov. 2014, but was rereleased professionally due to popular demand in October 2015. The book of poetry and prose quickly made it to the “The New York Times” Best Seller list and continues to gain recognition through Kaur’s Instagram posts.

The book is separated into four parts: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. In the author’s own ‘words, “‘Milk and Honey’ is a collection of poetry about love, loss, trauma, abuse, healing and femininity.”

Each poem and section in this book are written to try to normalize the feminine experience in a way that is not often done in poetry. She writes about everything from sexuality to the taboo surrounding women who do not shave.

“The hurting” centers on themes of abuse by family members and other men that Kaur has encountered in her life or heard stories of. The poems and prose in this section are the most difficult to read because Kaur doesn’t sugarcoat these traumas.

The tone in the second section, “the loving,” is much more sentimental and essentially follows the progression of a relationship. Each of these poems is written with a lover in mind, with a few of them even including advice from Kaur’s mother.

She writes, “I’ve seen you in my mother’s eyes when she tells me to marry the type of man I’d want to raise my son to be like.”

The reader follows Kaur through a relationship and slowly sees the breakdown of it through her poems. “The loving” is followed by “how we make up,” a prose section in which she reveals that the relationship is slowly breaking up due to infidelity.

“The breaking” follows “how we make up,” touching on the strange, liminal space after a breakup when there are still unresolved feelings.

Kaur writes, “the next time you have your coffee black you’ll taste the bitter state he left you in…”

Another prose section, “selfish,” follows “the breaking” and sets up the next section on healing. It signifies the finality of the breakup and the beginning of her personal healing process.

“The healing” is the last section of the book and deals with Kaur learning how to love herself separately from her relationships. She also touches on her renewed love for sisterhood and the strength of women as a whole.

Kaur adds a personal touch to each poem with her illustrations. These allow the reader to feel even closer to Kaur by channeling an almost journalistic or diary-like entry. Through the addition of these illustrations, she also manages to add a whimsical vibe to the poems that often have troubling subject matter.

This troubling subject matter is not written in a way that would scare off a poetry novice, though, because Kaur makes the experience of reading about trauma a therapeutic journey. She inspires the reader to believe that it is possible to make it through abuse and create something beautiful out of hardship.

The book takes the reader through a journey of pain and the eventual healing that comes after. The poems take on a raw tone that entices the reader and will make the experience more personal.

Kaur’s next greatly anticipated book of poems is set for release in the fall of 2017.