Summary | Milk and Honey
Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey free verse poetry novel consists of experiences of Kaur’s life in stages progressing from hurting to healing. This abstract portrayal of her life begins in “the hurting,” which consists of abuse she as a child and her mother faced that was bestowed upon them by her father. The text and images incorporated in the book describe the sexual, emotional, and physical abuse she suffered. The next stage in her book is titled “the loving”. Because the only “love” Kaur had ever known involved abuse and fear, she begins writing about a fantasy type of love. This fantasy transforms into a type of love she now knows that is filled with joy, support, and pleasure, which differs greatly from her past. The next stage is named “the breaking” where the love she had turns into something toxic. Kaur’s fantasy evaporates and reality strikes, leaving her with the reality that love is not easy, resulting in a breakup by the end of the chapter. The last stage in her poetry book is titled, “the healing” where Kaur describes, “it is a part of the human experience to feel pain” (152). “The healing” explains her realization that the love she had in her life was keeping her from loving herself. This stage continues in empowering women to love themselves for who they are despite what anyone thinks. She ends this book with a positive look on the tragedies she has faced in her life because they made her who she is today.
Rupi Kaur, a Punjabi-Canadian poet and illustrator, leaped from an internet success to a worldwide sensation for the publishing of her two poetry books, Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers. Her success is due to the support she gained from internet fans, as well as those who are hooked on her poetry books. Kaur’s work puts into words experiences that have occurred in her, or a loved one’s life. As these stories are real and raw, her words inspire and relate to millions around the world. However, life was not always like this for Rupi Kaur.
When Kaur, at the ripe age of five, she and her family fled India, escaping to Canada. Once old enough, she began to decide what type of future she yearned for. While she gravitated towards literature and fashion, her family wanted her to study science. Being true to herself, Kaur defies her family’s wishes, and studies Rhetoric and Professional Writing at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. During her college experience, she began to blog bits of her writing. Soon after, Kaur’s Instagram took off with posts that included original poems and doodle illustrations throughout.
After obtaining her degree, Rupi Kaur self publishes her first collection of poems, Milk and Honey, in 2014. This release was beyond successful, reaching the “#1 spot on The New York Times trade paperback bestseller list on January 15, 2017” (www.prnewswire.com 2017). Kaur never expected her books to gain so much popularity and reach so many people. Given the themes found in her collection of poetry, Kaur explains, “people will understand and they’ll feel [the poetry] because it all just goes back to the human emotion. Sadness looks the same across all cultures, races, and communities. So does happiness and joy” (www.rollingstones.com 2017). This idea of human emotion flows into her second poetry book The Sun and Her Flowers, which was released in 2017.
Historical Context | Milk and Honey
Rupi Kaur expresses that the inspiration for her book, Milk and Honey, started the day of her birth in 1992. The community she grew up in India experienced a lot of pain and suffering during the genocide, greatly affecting her parents and the way she was raised. The way she writes about sexuality and abuse comes from her conservative upbringing. In an interview, Kaur explains that “Injustice was [her] first inspiration, suffering was [her] second, and love was [her] last” (www.kaurlife.org 2014). Her writing has opened the door to conversations about violence, abuse and how there can be healing inside brokenness. Kaur is “the type of poet who prompts heated polemics…from people you never otherwise hear mention[ed] in poetry” (www.newyorktimes.com 2017). This accessibility is “because among other things she is young, female, from a Punjabi-Sikh immigrant family, relatively uncredentialed and insanely successful” (www.newyorktimes.com 2017). Kaur sheds a light on sexual abuse and the power of femininity, continuing to be an accepted and widely talked about topic in the poetry community. However, Kaur continues to break down boundaries, encouraging these topics to be discussed beyond those four walls, so to speak. When it comes to the profession of poetry for women writers, she carries on as one of the modern-day poets who continues to destroy barriers within and outside of writing.
Reviews of the Text | Milk and Honey
Milk and Honey, a poetry novel consisting of personal poems describing the chronicles of Rupi Kaur’s life, has received mixed reviews. As a recently published novel not like many others, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. While some may adore the simple poems, and its easy relatability, others find Kaur’s poetry unmeaningful, bland, and unskilled. While the internet has greatly improved the accessibility to reviews, the differing opinions makes it hard to decipher whether or not it’s worth the read. Now, we will dive into different reviews and try to see if these reviews match our own feelings toward the book.
The first review, written by Gregory Cowles, comes from The New York Times. Cowles describes Kaur’s journey from being a normal girl, to an Instagram sensation, then on to releasing Milk and Honey. Gregory explains how well Kaur uses her brand to continue to push her success. He explains her “ideas about how to expand her reach.” Cowles compares Kaur to various respected authors, expanding on the idea that Milk and Honey can relate to all demographics. While The New York Times does not have a “like” button, it is well-respected, thus the review is well-respected. A high level of praise is given from Gregory Cowles due to the success and reliability of Milk and Honey.
The second review, written by Alison Flood comes from The Guardian, a website that incorporates personal reviews alongside current news. In this short, positive review of Kaur’s book, Flood explains how the “Instapoet” transformed into a phenomenon who has sold more than half-a-million copies. Alison then writes about Kaur’s next accomplishment of jumping to the top of Amazon’s U.S. poetry book chart. Flood explains Kaur’s achievement of leaping in front of award-winning writers on the chart. The review continues to describe the success of Kaur’s poetry as an “honest, authentic voice speak[ing] to young people who relate to her depiction of pain and struggle,” however leaves the reader with hope. (theguardian.com 2016) She sums up her review as she explains that people love good storytelling, and this book does just that for people today.
The last review comes from the website, PaperBack Paris, which is a site people can read reviews about published books. Written by Julie Ciotola, she starts out with a summary of the book. Ciotola then goes into her story of how she discovered Milk and Honey, explaining her surprise with how “passionate, fierce, and uncensored” the poetry is (paperbackparis.com 2017). Ciotola then talks about the major themes of the poems and how each section of the book incorporates them. She says that this book is not exclusive to females, but for anyone that has ever felt both pain and pure bliss.
Every member of our group agrees that the book fills us with positive feelings, even though we have different interpretations. Kaur gives readers a jumble of carefully selected words, and then allows the poems to be interpreted in various ways. Overall, Milk and Honey tries to break the stereotype that only women can have emotions. The way Kaur writes her poetry comes from a place of inclusiveness so that anyone who has ever gone through love and, or, loss can read, understand and relate to her writing.
Connections | Milk and Honey
Rupi Kaur’s style of poetry is short, empathetic, tied closely to feminism and encourages the embrace of other cultures, such as her own, Punjabi. Thus, many of Kaur’s contemporaries are feminists who write relatable poems. Readers may connect to the author’s writing through feminism, understanding what it’s like to be a part of another culture, or simply empathizes to what the poem is talking about, whether it is love or heartbreak. Rupi has been compared to poets such as Amanda Lovelace.
Amanda Lovelace is the author of the princess saves herself in this one, “a collection of poetry about resilience” (http://amandalovelace.com). Like Kaur, Lovelace “explores love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, and inspiration” throughout her work (http://amandalovelace.com). This book consists of simple poetry. Kaur and Lovelace both identify as feminists, and it shows in their writing as they speak of the resilience of women. While there are differences, such as Lovelace’s absence of doodle’s in the princess saves herself in this one, if one enjoys Milk and Honey, they will undoubtedly enjoy Amanda Lovelace’s work.
Kaur’s Milk and Honey has also been compared to various texts. These include poetry books such as Whiskey Words and A Shovel, Robert Drake’s poetry novels, Dirty Pretty Things, Michael Faudet’s poetry, and many more. Both works, like Kaur’s consist of short and simple poems. Whiskey Words and A Shovel, consists of three volumes, each speaking of how it is to love, how to leave, and how to live. Drake’s collection of poems connects to the readers as it is easily relatable, just like Kaur’s work. Dirty Pretty Things, like both Kaur’s and Drake’s works, explore the themes of love, loss, and relationships.
These works are similar in that all of the poems are based on commonly felt emotions and strive to empower these individuals. These poems give readers a feeling of community, a feeling that they are not alone. The books, while aimed at young adults and teenagers, can relate to anyone who has fallen in, or out, of love. These works are written by adult authors who have experienced the feelings of love and heartbreak, and wish to use their outlet of writing to create a community for their readers.
Works Cited | Milk and Honey
Andrews McMeel Publishing. “Sales of #1 New York Times Best Seller Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur Reach One Million Copies.” PR Newswire, 31 Jan. 2017, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sales-of-1-new-york-times-best-seller-milk-and-honey-by-rupi-kaur-reach-one-million-copies-300399800.html. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Carlin, Shannon. “Meet Rupi Kaur, Queen of the ‘Instapoets’.” Rolling Stone, 21 Dec. 2017, https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/meet-rupi-kaur-queen-of-the-instapoets-w514035. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Ciotola, Julie. “Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur: Book Review.” Paperback Paris, 9 Feb. 2017, http://www.paperbackparis.com/milk-and-honey-rupi-kaur-book-review/. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Cowles, Gregory. “Inside the List.” The New York Times, 17 June 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/books/review/inside-the-list.html. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Flood, Alison. “Poet Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey Sells More than Half a Million Copies.” The Guardian, 13 Sep. 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/13/poet-rupi-kaurs-milk-and-honey-sells-more-than-half-a-million-copies. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Kaur, Rupi. “Faq.” Rupi Kaur, https://rupikaur.com/faq/. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Kaur, Rupi. [Photo of doodle featured in Rupi Kaur’s book, Milk and Honey]. Tribrach, https://tribrach.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/why-hasnt-the-literary-world-embraced-rupi-kaur/. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Kaur, Rupi. [Photo of doodle featured in Rupi Kaur’s book, Milk and Honey]. B for Bel, http://www.bforbel.com/2015/03/omg-rupi-kaur-is-officially-my-new-favorite-poet.html. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Kaur, Rupi. [Photo of doodle featured in Rupi Kaur’s book, Milk and Honey]. Jugni Style, http://jugnistyle.com/rupi-kaur-milk-honey/. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Kaur, Rupi. Milk and Honey. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016.
“Milk & Honey: A Poet Exposes Her Heart.” Kaur Life, 20 Nov. 2014, https://kaurlife.org/2014/11/20/milk-honey-poet-exposes-heart/. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Riddel, Rose. [Photo of Rupi Kaur]. Coup de Main, http://www.coupdemainmagazine.com/rupi-kaur/12611. Accessed 20 April 2018.
Wilson, Carl. “Why Rupi Kaur and Her Peers Are the Most Popular Poets in the World.” The New York Times, 15 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/books/review/rupi-kaur-instapoets.html. Accessed 20 April 2018.