I first heard about milk and honey via social media when I saw my followers posting short excerpts and raving about the inspiration they found. I’ll be honest, I was hesitant to read it at first. I assumed that, because it reached such a wide audience, the poems would be surface level and lack authenticity. What I found instead was a collection immersed in emotion and experience.
Toronto-based writer Rupi Kaur gives a voice to the parts of the mind that are often silent but need attention. Kaur is also a spoken word poet, which certainly shines through in her writing. It’s passionate, fierce and uncensored—everything poetry should be.
Kaur’s collection is split into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. “This is the journey of/ surviving through poetry/this is the blood sweat tears/of twenty-one years/this is my heart/in your hands/ this is/the hurting/the loving/the breaking/the healing,” the speaker says, opening up to readers from the start.
The poetry begins with themes centered around sexual abuse and broken relationships, tough topics to tackle. She depicts the childhood of a girl who was raped and left hopeless, and the destruction it caused. Kaur lets her emotions flow freely as if the words are pouring out from her heart rather than her mind.
In “the hurting,” there is much more than a physical pain that is present; it descends deep within the heart of the victim and shatters their purity. What remains is a voice that cries out for help, but no one will answer to it.
“The loving” shifts the tone of the book, as the poems become intimate and sensual. Kaur details sexual and emotional pleasures created by love, and the power it has to render the soul completely useless. Despite the change in subject matter, Kaur maintains her voice and keeps the rhythm of her poems short and simple.
“The breaking” and “the healing” go hand in hand (no surprise there); both detail the journey of heartbreak to happiness. She speaks to a younger audience here, a group of lovers who have been abandoned and broken for the first time. The pain described is told with innocence and passion, the only way pain should be told.
The final chapter of the collection encapsulates the meaning of independence and identity. The speaker encourages readers to seek out the beauty and radiance within themselves, to stop relying on the world and other people for validation. Kaur writes, “You must enter a relationship/with yourself/before anyone else.” Personally, this emphasizes the power to love ourselves that lies within us all. Some may argue this idea is cliché, but the way Kaur expresses independence is original and honest, providing a new perspective on an old idea.
Whether or not you are female, and whether or not you can relate to every message in milk and honey, I think it is a necessary read for all. The reminder to appreciate yourself and to embrace emotion is timeless.
Trying to summarize the human experience is pointless because each person deals with pain and pleasure in their own way. But Kaur comes about as close as a poet can get to understanding and accepting the importance behind emotion, and why we all need more love.