In light of the recent publication of her second book, the sun and her flowers, I thought it fitting to review the original Rupi Kaur poetry masterpiece: milk and honey. Note that the titles are in lowercase, as is her entire work. In an interview, Kaur mentioned that her work is inspired by her mother tongue Punjabi which doesn’t include uppercase letters, she loves the symmetry of the words as well as the equality it represents.
Let’s start by what I love about the book.
First, its name. Rupi writes “years ago i wrote a poem about the 1984 genocide of sikhs in india. in it there is a line about the women who lived through that terrible time. i write that they come out of that terror as smooth as milk and as thick as honey.” I absolutely love how she managed to attach so much weight onto a simple title like milk and honey, it personalized her book so well, she almost doesn’t need to mention her name anymore.
Second, the drawings. Every other page in the book includes a sketch that relates, to a certain extent, to the subject matter of the poem on it. She may not be the first artist who has thought of this, but the hand-drawn images are clean, minimalistic and poetic in and of themselves, it’s unique in its very own way.
Third, and finally, I love how raw her poems are. As I mentioned before, she has done an amazing job personalizing and truly making the book her own. There are four chapters: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. It seems that Kaur is drawing a pattern of events, not necessarily as sequential as these chapters, but they still somewhat resonate with personal experiences. It almost feels like we’re reading an autobiography, but a poetic one. The poems aren’t about random people nor are they depicting alien emotions to her, but they’re about broken hearts, sexual assaults, feminism, family struggles, religious views, all well customized to Rupi’s own encounter with these themes.
Now, let’s jump into what I didn’t like about the book.
There are no bulletpoints here, mainly because there is one principal critique and that is the contemporariness of the poems. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for modernization of this genre, slam poetry and spoken word were the main reasons I fell for it in the first place. However, Rupi Kaur did begin as an internet sensation, and I read about that only after I read her book and thought, this belongs on Instagram more than it does on paper. There are many many great poems in there, and I repeat, I love how raw the content is, however, compared to Lang Leav and Nayyirah Waheed (who are both big Instagram accounts turned authors), she falls a bit short. For example, less “nothing is safer than the sound of you reading out loud to me” and more “you smell like earth herbs gardens, a little more human than the rest of us”.
Nevertheless, this falls under personal taste and which poems different people can relate to, based on their own experiences and interests.
Overall, I would say I was a bit disappointed, seeing as this book was the talk of the town for a very long time, I guess I projected a bit onto it. It’s important, however, to mention that the author is a talented, sensitive, genius superwoman and I am certain it will start showing better in future pieces. I still encourage you to buy a copy, the book is perfect to take along with you to the beach or long train rides, it’s a fun and super-fast read, the poems range from three to thirteen lines and I am sure some of them will sit at home with you.
Enjoy, and always bring a book home. x