milk and honey is the book I needed to read when I was fifteen. There are poems in here that would speak to that angsty teenager in ways she needed, in ways that her own poems couldn’t. It’s the first poetry collection that I’ve seen getting any real hype in the book community and I’ve been waiting to get my hands on it for quite a while. Thanks to an Amazon gift card, I finally got to read it and it resonated in some surprising ways.
It’s hard to review a poetry collection, because they are—by definition—diverse. There isn’t really an overarching plot, but the poems represent the author’s life and all of its joys and pains. The book is separated into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing. The poems are untitled and accompanied by original illustrations throughout. It’s interesting to find a collection that can show the ups and downs of feeling toward the same subject in a realistic way. It seems that more often than not poems are only depressing or only laudatory.
Rupi Kaur doesn’t hold back any punches when it comes to hard times and—as with all writing—the line between what is real and what is fantasy may be blurred at times. There is some raw and graphic material in many of the poems, ranging from rape to sensual lovemaking, and quite a few of the poems will strike a chord with readers who have had trouble with their own demons.
This is a brutal, heartbreaking, yet optimistic book about life’s journeys and where they take us. Many of its poems are feminist at heart and address popular issues. Quite a few of the poems about heartbreak and longing reminded me of an old unrequited flame. While it’s tempting to read this all in one go because of its shorter length, I’d recommend taking the time to read through each poem and give them some thought before moving on.
However, as with many other critics, I’d say that this collection wanes with its quality at times. Many of the poems are brilliant and gorgeous, but some of them seem as they were thrown in to fill up pages or jot down a thought. Most of these would not be taught in a college-level discourse because there isn’t much to look into beyond surface level and deep reaction. They honestly remind me of better written versions of the poems I wrote back in my emo days. Many of the poems have the same voice, tone, cadence, and style; this means that they all kind of blend into one another without standing out.
It’s a decent collection with some beautiful, heartbreaking poems, but it is also weighed down by its unique and repetitive writing style and the occasional poem that reads like a memo written on a napkin. Without specific titles I can’t recommend the poems that I did enjoy out of the collection, but there are some inside that are definitely worth checking out. Others…eh, not so much. I’d recommend this book to lovesick teenagers who need to learn to love themselves first, people curious about popular contemporary poetry, and to people who need a reminder that love comes in all sizes, shapes, and forms and that it’s always worth the heartache. Grab a copy of milk and honey and find the poem that speaks to you.