Just over a month ago I read, all in one sitting, Rupi Kaur’s ‘Milk and Honey’ collection of poetry.
Nowadays, in the mass production culture of crime thriller’s and holiday reads, poetry collections rarely get a look in. However for over a year I had been seeing the same images, compact beautiful poetry, simple line drawings, all over the internet. I knew a few people from Uni who had read this collection a while back. But as with everything in my life, I got distracted from it.
But as I’ve already said, I did get round to reading it. Reading this collection in one sitting is akin to a life-spanning journey of pain, love, the break and finally self acceptance. Kaur leads us through this journey with four sections to the collection, ‘the hurting’, ‘the loving’, ‘the breaking’ and ‘the healing.
The thing that makes ‘Milk and Honey’ stand out when it comes to this kind of ‘personal growth’ poetry is this: it doesn’t try to be applicable to everyone. Kaur doesn’t write wishy washy aspirational poetry perfectly packaged for a toilet read. Instead, Kaur’s poetry is personal, deeply personal, for her, for women of colour, for women, for people in love, for people hurting out of love, for people learning to love themselves. Not everyone will find something in every poem or every section to relate to, but I know that there is something in this collection for everyone. Whether it is only 3 poems out of the 71 (I think?) I can guarantee that those three poems will sit with you, heavily on your heart, or cradling you lightly, in bed before you fall to sleep at night, or 60 of 71 that resound with you, shaking your foundations holding you tight like an unknown sister sat beside you grasping your hand.
‘Milk and Honey’ is the most wonderfully brave and honest collection of poetry I have ever read, in fact the most wonderfully brave and honest piece of literature full stop. If you are going through a tough time, no matter what your gender, this collection is something I highly recommend. I cried, quite a lot whilst reading it. If you put aside your hold-ups about poetry I truly do believe it can and will help. By the time you reach ‘the healing’ it feels as if Kaur is sat in front of you – in a light room, both you on the floor, your legs crossed – creating these pictures with words and holding them up to you going ‘see? do you see?’ and we look at these pictures and see what we need to see in them at that time, like some kind of spiritual healing Rorschach test. From teaching us to first accept ourselves before expecting anyone else, to learning to accept body hair, self-love is a serious, important endeavour in this collection. Kaur brings us to a door, that you know she has faced at one point too, and she attempts to lead us through it.
On a more literary level, Kaur’s language in ‘Milk and Honey’ is minimal, carefully chosen, purposeful, heavy with meaning and experience. Kaur’s beautiful motifs of parting legs, vulnerable sexual moments, nature representing the destruction and fluidity of human relationships and emotions. Paired with her own illustrations Kaur’s poetry is perfect for the overloaded modern mind. Yes, reading it in one sitting was powerful, and an almost overwhelming, unforgettable emotional journey, but reading just a few every day once home from work or whilst commuting would work too.
More than anything I just want as many people as possible to read this collection. It is informing without being forced, there’s no lecture here, only discussion, it is refreshing, honest and more than anything, brave. It goes to show that sometimes it really is worth it, pulling away from pride, being vulnerable and brave for yourself and everyone else.