For centuries, poetry has transformed sadness into stances, wonderment into words and emotion into eloquence. Poetry is arguably the purest form of writing, allowing poets to take their misery and joy and capture it forever in a poem. Human emotions are not permanent, and as they ebb and flow so does poetry. A brilliant example of the range that poetry provides can be seen in Rupi Kaur’s book of poetry “milk and honey,” a New York Times Best Seller.
“milk and honey” gained national recognition after being self-published by Kaur in 2014, and has since received worldwide accolades for its emotional depiction of healing through writing.
The book is split into four chapters: “the hurting”, “the loving”, “the breaking” and “the healing”. Each chapter is chock full of poetry, prose and hand-drawn illustrations, the combination of which provides raw and emotional insights into life, love, loss and learning.
Kaur is a Canadian poet, illustrator, writer and performer. Born of Indian descent, Kaur immigrated with her family to Canada from Punjab, India when she was 4 years old. Her Indian heritage influences her writing style, and her experiences growing up with immigrant parents shape how Kaur interacts with her world and her poetry.
Kaur’s writing style is simple and elegant; she exclusively writes in lowercase and only uses periods as punctuation. Her illustrations are all black and white, and most are drawn with a single black line. Such simplicity elevates the meanings of her words, and she strives to connect her experiences to each reader on a deep, intellectual level.
Common themes in her poetry include sexual abuse, femininity, heartbreak, love and loss. Femininity in particular strings together her pieces, attempting to empower women through acknowledgement of their power. Kaur doesn’t shy away from topics such as menstruation, female hygiene and sexual abuse, and serves to give voice to these issues, which are commonly associated with shame and stigma. Her blunt way of discussing them comes off as raw emotion, and she often addresses her poetry to fellow women who have experienced similar woes. Although Kaur has not labeled herself as feminist, her work could be interpreted as feminist literature due to the overt feminine themes and assertions of feminine power.
It takes about half an hour to read the poetry collection from start to finish, but this is a collection that will haunt you for much longer. You will find yourself again and again wanting to reread each short poem to recapture the emotion felt on the first read. The book has become very popularly shared on Instagram, and it’s easy to see why. Each poem packs an emotional punch into a few short stanzas, for every word has been chosen so carefully by Kaur. To read this book is to experience it, and to experience it is to love, lose and learn about yourself.
Although not exclusive to women, I would recommend this book to every woman I know, for the lessons learned in the book about self-love and healing can take years to understand.
Kaur captures a lifetime’s worth of emotional rollercoasters, and presents it in such simplicity that it takes on new levels of depth. Count yourself lucky to live in such a world where this poetry exists.
Rupi Kaur published a second book of poetry titled “the sun and her flowers” on Oct. 3, 2017. It is available on Amazon and in most major bookstores.