“My heart woke me crying last night / how can i help i begged / my heart said / write the book” (lines 1-4). These are the words of poet Rupi Kaur from her collection Milk and Honey. I will endlessly thank the friend who recommended this collection to me because it is raw, beautiful, and empowering. Every woman needs to own this book.
In just four sections, titled the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing, Kaur’s poetry made me feel like I’d formed an intimate relationship with the speaker of this collection. She writes, “ you / have been / taught your legs / are a pit stop for men” (lines 1-4). Her words will resonate with anyone who has survived rape or endured a break up that has left them feeling hopeless: “my tongue is sour / from the hunger of / missing you” (lines 1-3). Although many of the poems are small (typically 3-10 short lines) Kaur’s words carry weight.
What is even more amazing about this collection is the visual element of the book. Many of the poems sit alongside simple illustration that have been drawn by Kaur. The collaboration between poetry and visual art is profound. I love Kaur’s writing and drawing style because it does a lot with very little. The illustrations are minimal and most of the poems are small and lack a title and punctuation.
The first section, which talks about the speaker surviving rape, is blunt, emotionally charged, and emboldening. The words are terrifying: “he had the smell of / starvation on his lips / which he picked up from / his father feasting on his mother at 4 a.m” (lines 7-10). Nevertheless, there is a thread of hope that moves through the collection, teaching women how to reclaim their body: “the rape will / tear you / in half // but it / will not / end you” (lines 1-6).
After the speaker heals and falls in love with someone, the entire second section reveals the most intimate parts of their relationship: “every revolution / starts and ends / with his lips” (lines 1-3). I love the message this section sends to woman: “i am learning / how to love him / by loving myself” (lines 1-3). The idea of creating positive relationships in our lives by first loving ourselves is powerful.
The third section of the book , the breaking, illustrates the speaker’s heartbreak after finding out about her boyfriend’s infidelity. This section will resonate with woman who’ve been cheated on, as well as anyone who has been through a painful breakup: “ . . . how even when the love / leaves. it doesn’t leave. how even when i am so / past you. i am so helplessly brought back to you” (lines 16-18). These words speak to anyone who has been forced to end an unhealthy relationship with someone they love.
Everyone needs to read this collection at least once. If you’re not a huge fan of poetry, I can say that this collection is welcoming because of the simple language that draws you in. It’s fierce, stunning, and powerful. I devoured this collection in one sitting, and I promise you will too.
(photo courtesy of andrewsmcmeel.com)
Buy the collection here.