It took precisely two poems for Tumblr to convince me that Rupi Kaur’s milk and honey was a book I needed to read. There’s poetry that feels (to me) like it’s speaking an approximation of the language I am so fluent in, clear in writing and not in meaning, and then … there’s poetry like this: poetry that may as well be speaking every language you know, poetry that sinks into your skin like a salve, poetry like milk and honey.
The book, as the image above hints at, is divided into four parts. The first part is “the hurting”. It is the shortest and the hardest section to read in my opinion as it deals with traumas like rape and the deep hurt caused by an absent father. Kaur has a way with words and pictures (yes, the book is illustrated), expertly choosing the simplest words and lines to create the most powerful combination of poetry and art. The artwork with its minimalistic style reveals more about itself by the spaces it hasn’t illustrated, while the poetry– similarly minimal in writing style– fills in the blanks, making you unable to look away from the page. Depending on the context and topic being discussed, the combination of the two can have the delicate effect of a needle and thread …
you have sadness
living in places
sadness shouldn’t live
— Page 25, milk and honey
… or all the brutality of a hammer and nail:
you were so afraid
of my voice
i decided to be
afraid of it too
— Page 15, milk and honey
The second part, “the loving” is a dizzying chapter. It takes the hurt from the last chapter and travels with it. Sometimes it is a burden, sometimes it is a reminder that no matter how loving someone is, hurt is hurt and it cannot be a part of love. This section was the most interesting one for me. The poems were in turn romantic and, well, not. I don’t know if that was intentional but it made sense to me: after so much hurt, what does the rest of one’s life look like? A lot like this, I guess.
The next part, “the breaking” is pretty self-explanatory. The poems in this section are like jagged glass: they could hurt if you held them wrong but held right, they become pretty handy weapons. This is the part that holds one of my favourite poems:
This section slides, a little bumpily, into the final part of the book: “the healing”. I honestly don’t know what to say about this section without sounding (even more) like a clichéd blurb on the back of a book. (The word “awful” comes to mind not because it’s horrid, but because it’s awe inspiring.) I mean, what can I possibly say that can relate how uplifting and just good this part is? I can’t. Here. Have another poem instead:
Basically, whether you love poetry or you’re hesitant about poetry, whether you’ve only ever had one bad day or you feel like you’ve never had a good day, milk and honey was written lovingly for you.
And now is the part where I try to figure out what age group I’m recommending milk and honey. Well, it has triggering material and some sexual imagery? So, use your discretion, obviously? I just don’t know. All I know is that I would have loved a copy of this book at seventeen. Once more, I’m going to guess that it’s suitable for older teens and young adults.