Milk and Honey is a book of poetry by Rupi Kaur on the syllabus of ENG 271’s Toronto’s Multicultural Literatures. It’s a best-selling book, having sold millions of copies and becoming part of most people’s vocabulary, having read it or not. Dubbed an “instapoet” with much ambivalence, Rupi Kaur writes a book of confessional poetry that provokes emotion in simple and direct language.
This book of poetry is about the trauma and pain of life as a woman. It is the ugly and the beautiful process of breaking and healing. A book of multiple perspectives moving between infinite personas and tapping into a well of collective female experience. It strives to achieve the nearly impossible task of putting heartbreak into words. It also highlights the divine and natural abilities of women and presents great joy in these moments.
The book moves through four themes and sections titled: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. Though not an auto-biographical text, Kaur insists on a parallel between the four sections and her personal journey through their themes. She calls this piece “a love letter from me to you” and though the pages are painted with trauma and moments of extreme violence, Kaur reconciles these pains with surging optimism. She transforms a melancholic re-reading of pain into an opportunity to grow, heal, and thrive.
Kaur calls on another poet named Warsan Shire in an homage that establishes Kaur’s poetry as part of a growing group of poets writing from the position of women of colour. These women use formal poetic traditions and language to force confrontation with these established traditions. At times, the poems are uncomfortable and at others, they are peaceful. Kaur takes the poetic sentiment of honesty and commits to it fully. This causes tensions that Kaur tries to explain in a clear and unmistakable light, as Kaur finds it best to present the experience of trauma with direct language rather than buried in complexities and interpretation.
It’s hard to pinpoint the definition of Kaur’s poetry. At times, she moves into prose. On every second page, she includes an illustration that depicts the written imagery on the page. And rarely, she is so brisk and precise that her poems read similar to tweets, or captions, or personal affirmations. Sometimes, she sacrifices literary complexity in favor of fraught but identifiable messages. In the end, this might be Kaur’s intention—to present something that is accessible to more than a select view of niche fans and scholars while remaining poetic and literary.
This book of poetry is ultimately one of love. Rupi Kaur in each section of the book returns to the idea of love. She often says, “most importantly love.” It is the pervading sense that you are left with as you reach the last poems and find Kaur’s literal love letter to you and anyone that achieves the emotional tour that she invites you on in this book.