This is the first time I’ve written about an extremely topical book here. The book has been on the NYT best sellers list for several weeks, and as a bookseller I got to witness it suddenly skyrocketing. Women were coming into the store to request it. Others were reserving copies online. In my time working at the bookstore, I hadn’t seen many poetry books become popular. This one, for a while, was out of stock in our warehouse. So, naturally, when I saw we’d finally gotten a few copies in store, I was quick to buy it for myself. I’m a lover of poetry, particularly modern poetry, and one that was being linked to other feminist poets and authors was sure to appeal to me.
It, of course, did. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is a poetry collection dealing with the cycle of pain, love, heartbreak, and healing. A more accurate description might be that it’s a guidebook for navigating complicated relationships with lovers, family, and yourself.
Kaur’s style toes a very fine line, and takes all the best aspects of the genres that rest to either side of it. Many of the poems feel confessional, a pouring out of emotions raw and blunt and beautiful. But what Kaur does with this confessional tone is even more important. She turns her own struggles and experiences and turns many of them into affirmations. It’s possible that while trying to heal herself, she has created a sort of manifesto on the conjunction of femininity and pain. I specifically say femininity because most of poems deal with her experience as a woman. I don’t want that to discourage men from taking an interest in the work: much of what she says can translate. But ultimately, this collection is one that’s for women. I would like to think it wouldn’t alienate male readers. But many of the experiences and emotions she describes are rooted in gendered expectations, of being born a daughter, of feeling invisible, powerless, and at times preyed upon. Her words will ring true to and potentially comfort anyone who has ever habitually felt the same.
Kaur’s writing reaches out to the reader. Her raw and impassioned style feels almost like a long conversation with your closest friend. That claim always feels like an exaggeration, but it’s the best comparison I have. The poetry is intimate, emotional, and fiercely honest. Where many poets would veil specifics in metaphors, Kaur lays out her thoughts powerfully and openly. The poems see her experiencing love, and the contradictory feelings of needing to leave when the love is no longer enough while simultaneously being pulled back in. She gives herself and the reader advice, offering a post-breakup to-do list as well as countless affirmations. Essentially, what Kaur writes—most adeptly—is a breadcrumb trail back to herself in the wake of overwhelming loss and abuse.
I’ve once again hardly done the text justice. Needless to say, I recommend this book to anyone—particularly women—who are feeling alone or lost in the wake of trauma. Milk and Honey may help to alleviate that aloneness. I don’t think I am the only woman who has found herself reflected in Kaur’s poems. Sometimes the similarity is vague. But it is strong.