Book review: 'Milk and Honey' by Rupi Kaur

Elizabeth Proffitt | Contributing Writer

This article was originally posted April 2017

Most people, when given the chance to read poetry scoff and decline. Citing that poetry is far too boring or dry. However feminist poet, Rupi Kaur, takes on this convention in her book “Milk and Honey” proving that much like good all poetry, “Milk and Honey” isn’t hard to swallow.

“Milk and Honey” was first self-published in Nov. 2014 but was rereleased professionally due to popular demand in Oct. 2015. The book of poetry and prose quickly made it to the New York Times bestseller 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 authors own words, “'Milk and Honey' is a collection of poetry about love, loss, trauma, abuse, healing and femininity.”

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

“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 from this point on. Each of these poems is written with a lover in mind, with a few of the poems 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 a prose section titled “how we make up” where she reveals that the relationship is slowly breaking up through infidelity.

“the breaking” follows “how we make up” touching on the strange, liminal space after a break up when there are still unresolved feelings. “The next time you have your coffee black you’ll taste the bitter state he left you in…”

A prose section follows “the breaking” entitled “selfish” that sets up for the next section about healing. It signifies the finality of the breakup and the beginning of her person 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. This touch lets the reader feel even closer to Kaur because it feels almost journalistic or like a diary entry from a friend. Through the addition of these illustrations she also manages to add a whimsical vibe to poems that often have troubling subject matter.

This troubling subject matter however is not written in a way that would scare off a poetry novice 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 pain.

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.