Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

A few months ago, I started to follow Rupi Kaur on Instagram after hearing lots of good things about her writing. I enjoyed reading her posts but wanted to get a better overview of what her writing would be like in print so I was pleased when I was given a copy of Milk and Honey for my birthday earlier this year. Having read it now, I can understand why there was so much hype about it: it is definitely unique as a collection of poetry, tackling issues that feel very real and personal to Kaur. However, I see it less as a ground-breaking collection and more as the promise of great potential: I look forward to seeing how Kaur has grown as a writer when her next book is released later this year.

Milk and Honey is divided into four sections: ‘the hurting’; ‘the loving’; ‘the breaking’; and ‘the healing’. Kaur brings the readers through these parts of her life, in a seemingly loosely chronological narrative that describes the growth she has experienced in her life. Whilst the collection is made up primarily of poetry, there are a few texts that are more prose than poetry; I thought this to be an interesting decision, particularly since it reminded me of some of the pieces I had read during the Creative Non-Fiction module I took at University. Kaur’s strong poetic voice transforms easily into prose that maintains the rhythm key to a poetry collection.

Kaur has a natural poetic voice that many poets would envy. Her poems read as personal pleas and confessions to the reader, not out of place in a collection that she labels as her ‘heart’ (‘a love letter from me to you’); this all serves to make the collection an easy read, simply a matter of enjoying the writing. I had enjoyed reading Kaur’s poetry on Instagram so I was pleased to see how well she manages to maintain her unique tone in her longer pieces.

Whilst I enjoyed most of this collection, I have to say that some of the writing was too sexually explicit for my tastes. There were points in the collection where I could see that there was a purpose to this explicitness: particularly in the opening section (‘the hurting’), Kaur is making a strong personal stand against sexual assault. However, for the most part I found myself needing to flip past several poems that were just too sex-orientated for me. That may be a personal preference, but at times it felt somewhat unnecessary to the overall collection.

Having read Loop of Jade and Milk and Honey around the same time, I can’t help but compare them a little. Whilst both collections feel very contemporary, including a wide range of freeform poetry, I think it is clear that Kaur is the less experienced writer. Kaur’s writing is raw and full of potential, but it is often a little too on-the-nose in the execution of it. Howe’s writing is no less personal than Kaur, but there is a sophistication in Loop of Jade that leaves just enough off the page to intrigue the reader with the spaces. I’m looking forward to seeing how both poets grow in the future.

This was an enjoyable collection of poetry that I am glad to have read. I like the rhythm and tone of Kaur’s writing and particularly appreciated how clearly structured the whole collection was. With the skeleton of those four sections, Kaur is able to tell a very personal narrative that would not have been so clear otherwise. She has already released the structure of her next book on Instagram and it looks to be just as carefully compiled as this one, which can only be a good thing. This is a collection I would recommend (with a caution of its sometimes explicit nature) particularly to those who would not usually read poetry. Kaur’s writing has already brought more people into an enjoyment of poetry and I think Milk and Honey is a good place to start.


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