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book cover artWhat a wonderful poetry collection Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is. It’s not complex, Pulitzer Price winning poetry like Elizabeth Bishop or Tracy K. Smith, but not all poetry has to be of that caliber and frankly, I wouldn’t want it to be. It’s like W.H. Auden said, you can’t read all masterpieces all the time, it would be too exhausting. But that doesn’t mean Milk and Honey isn’t fantastic just because it isn’t a masterpiece. Nor does it mean that the poetry isn’t thoughtful, thought-provoking, beautiful or powerful.

Kaur self-published the collection back in 2014. It sold so well that Andrews McNeel Publishing picked it up. The book made it to the New York Times bestseller list and as of September 2016, has sold over half a million copies. Pretty amazing for a poetry book!

The collection is broken up into four themed sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. The poems are often quite short, some only two or three lines, very few more than a page. Some of the poems have a title, most do not. And sprinkled throughout are simple line drawings Kaur drew herself.

The poetry is feminist through and through:

every time you
tell your daughter
you yell at her
out of love
you teach her to confuse
anger with kindness
which seems like a good idea
till she grows up to
trust men who hurt her
cause they look so much
like you

-to fathers with daughters

Much of the poetry deals with relationships and break ups, sex, romance, love

my favorite thing about you is your smell
you smell like
earth
herbs
gardens
a little more
human than the rest of us

But it also considers women and our relationship to each other:

i want to apologize to all the women
i have called pretty
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is the most you have to be proud of when your
spirit has crushed mountains
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re pretty
but because you are so much more than that

It is a poetry that demands respect and dignity for and from others, including oneself:

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

But most of all it is poetry about the things that matter most:

most importantly love
like it’s the only thing you know how
at the end of the day all this
means nothing
this page
where you’re sitting
your degree
your job
the money
nothing matters
except love and human connection
who you loved
and how deeply you loved them
how you touched the people around you
and how much you gave them

If you have a chance to read Milk and Honey, take it.

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