“you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out
i was not made with a lightness on my tongue
so i could be easy to swallow
i was made heavy
half blade and half silk
difficult to forget and not easy
for the mind to follow”
Synopsis: Milk and honey’ is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. ‘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.
Age Group & Genre(s): Feminism, Nonfiction, Poetry
Point of View: First Person
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: 2016
Format: Hardcover (B&N Exclusive Edition)
Kaur’s milk and honey is a collection of poetry I’ve been meaning to read for about 2 years now. But every time I picked up the novel, I got scared … knowing that this collection contains a number of HEAVY topics that aren’t easy to digest. Finally, I grew the courage to pick it up … and thank goodness. Kaur has the most BEAUTIFUL writing, digging deep into issues that society chooses to ignore. Completely raw and open, Kaur opens herself up through poetry, showing that we aren’t alone … that the things that have happened to us don’t determine who we are nor do they control us. We are strong … and we have voices.
CONTENT & TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains topics regarding abuse (multiple), alcoholism, anxiety, manipulation (toxic relationship), rape (sexual abuse, sexual assault, toxic relationship, pedophilia), sex, and trauma (victim blaming).
Flowing from one topic to the next, milk and honey reads like a story rather than simply a collection. A collection of poetry’s always a beautiful thing, but Kaur made this into a novel that follows someone along their journey. By doing this, milk and honey becomes a story that people can grow with and learn from. Beginning with loneliness and a sense of longing, the poems slowly but surely transition to self-acceptance and empowerment. In addition, the “story-like” flow of milk and honey makes the collection feel more complete and balanced … providing a deeper meaning to the entirety of the collection by connecting everything as a whole.
Kaur doesn’t shy away from the “difficult to swallow” topics, laying them open for the world to see. As an overly empathetic individual, I’m the first to admit that there are topics that can be triggering and difficult to face. Unfortunately, we live in a world where bad things do happen to good people. But that doesn’t mean we should hide these in a locked chest and throw away the key … this isn’t overcoming grief and sadness, it’s allowing it to fester and grow. Sexual assault, toxic relationships, abuse towards women and children, racism and racial injustice, gender inequality … these are ALL topics that aren’t “pretty” or “whimsical” to talk about. Kaur’s milk and honey implores readers to acknowledge these topics so we can fight to end them, making them obsolete. But she also discusses these topics to show those who have had first hand experiences with these horrors that YOU are not alone … YOU are powerful … YOU can overcome anything … YOU are a force to be reckoned with … YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Kaur brings meaning to the title and the way in which the poetry in milk and honey symbolism and connecting cultures. One thing I find MISSING when I read poetry collections is the WHY … why choose this title and this writing style. There are SO many different forms of poetry and ways to write it, and sometimes knowing the WHY helps explain the meaning of the poems even more. Luckily, Kaur does this in her introduction to milk and honey. After reading the story of how milk and honey came to life, the WHOLE collection made MUCH more sense. Kaur explains the importance of her connecting her Indian and Canadian roots, providing insight to the title choice and the reason for eliminating English punctuation and standard sentence structures. But this goes DEEPER than just how the poetry is written … for Kaur intertwines two different cultures and shows that at the end of the day … we are the same … we are all human, no matter where come from or look like.
As a side note, since this made me FURIOUS when I was reading other reviews:
For those individuals who complained about how the poetry has been written “grammatical” and how is has been structured … learn to read the authors introduction and educate yourself on the different forms of poetry before you decide to judge and critique. Kaur explains WHY she wrote her collection the way she did at the VERY beginning.
Is still a form
You don’t have to LIKE this form of poetry, but you can’t simply state it ISN’T poetry when … in fact … it is.
Side note (a.k.a. venting) over.
No woes …
So why only four cups of tea?
There were some poems that I just couldn’t comprehend or relate to … and that’s okay! Honestly, this isn’t “a woe” … it’s simply how poetry works. There are works that resonate with you instantly, some that don’t but you still understand the meaning, and there are others that you have NO idea what’s happening. But that doesn’t make the poem “bad” … especially since others WILL connect to do. But since I couldn’t COMPLETELY relate to the entirety of Kaur’s milk and honey collection, I didn’t feel I could give it a 5 star rating.
Similar to my experience reading Wilder Poetry’s Nocturnal, Kaur’s milk and honey reminded me of why I fell in love with poetry so long ago. There’s something so pure and beautiful about authors writing these real and raw forms of poetry, showing the world it’s okay to be vulnerable and open.
Most importantly, this novel reminded me of how beautiful it is to be a woman. I honestly think this novel can be read by any person, no matter their gender orientation (male, female, non-binary and much more). But as someone who identifies as a woman, this novel reminded me I am more than enough, I don’t need to fall under societies obnoxious ideals of female beauty, and I am just as capable as any other person … not based on my gender or sex, but based off of my skills.
I recommend this novel if you enjoy:
↠ A collection of free verse poetry
↠ A novel about feminism and personal growth
↠ Depth to the content and symbolism of the written word
↠ “Self help” and “healing” novels
Have you read Rupi Kaur’s milk and honey?