By Destiny Powell
“Milk and Honey,” written by Rupi Kaur is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. Kaur does not subscribe to the belief that poetry must be difficult to be meaningful, championing a direct and inclusive register that unites her personal experiences with the reader. Combining a first-person perspective with the repeated second person pronoun ‘you’, Kaur further bridges the gap between her poetry and her audience. She forges a link that causes the reader to imagine themselves not only as an author but as a muse. Pointing beyond the page at ‘you’, Kaur rejects the division of the reader from the writer, assimilating her own experiences, memories, and subjects with her audience.
The book is split into four parts: “the hurting,” “the loving,” “the breaking” and “the healing.” Each chapter focuses on an individual theme, dealing with a type of pain and growing from that experience.
The first chapter, “the hurting,” portrays events of sexual assault and rape. In these poems, a narrative begins to emerge: The speaker, like so many women before her, has been abused by her father, her uncle and various men in her life. “The hurting” primarily focuses on the speaker’s experiences of abuse, offering insights and confessions as she reflects on the repercussions. The speaker recognizes that many other women in her family have been subjected to similar experiences and are taught to be subservient to men.
The second chapter, “the loving,” is a shift in the novel which focuses on the speaker’s adult relationships with men. The opinion she has of herself and her body is irrevocably shaped by her father’s actions and words.
This new loving relationship has a profound effect on the speaker. She associates it with safety, taking comfort in the sound of his voice and the touch of his hands on her skin.
“The breaking” is the third and longest chapter of the collection. It recounts the breakup with her boyfriend, who was mentioned in the previous chapter. Following this, Kaur focuses on the generality of relationships with men.
The collection ends on a more positive note, as the final chapter is titled “the healing.” A majority of the poems in this section consist of aphorisms statements of general truths. The aphorisms help the speaker to heal from the grief and trauma that was inflicted on her. The speaker realizes that healing is a process and can only be achieved when she looks within herself for the answers.
Kaur’s poetry is written with such truth and emotion. The book teaches you that life is filled with terrible and heartbreaking moments, but within those moments you can find great things. There is so much meaning and emotion behind every word.
As Kaur stated: “‘Milk and Honey’ takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.”