When you learn about poetry in school, the curriculum is typically saturated with a bunch of dead white dudes—Frost, Thoreau, Shakespeare. Occasionally, a woman like Maya Angelou or Emily Dickinson will be sprinkled in, tacked onto the end of a syllabus to add some “diversity.” Our conceptions of and associations with the craft are usually male and white.
Rupi Kaur, an Indian American woman poet, subverts and shatters these harmful stereotypes that effectively erase women and people of color creatives. Kaur gained extraordinary success over the past couple years. At only 24 years old, the young poet has sold half a million copies of her originally self-published Milk and Honey. She’s built a remarkable Instagram following of 745k followers and almost 200k Facebook likes.
Her poems, accompanied by minimalist, personal sketches, frequently pop up on Instagram and Facebook feeds. Kaur’s Milk and Honey, a collection of poems and prose with themes of womanhood, feminism, sexuality, abuse, and racism, is a New York Times bestseller.
I’m not exaggerating when I confidently proclaim that Kaur’s work is pure magic. Craving a book I could feel a strong, deep connection to, I ordered Milk and Honey a few months ago. I read the entire piece in one night.
I remember opening the book, finishing the first poem, and feeling an instant jolt deep in my gut, as if Kaur’s words physically reached out and touched me. Her prose emotionally hits you, an unrelenting tidal wave of artistry over and over again.
As a writer, I’m constantly in awe of authors who successfully transport readers into their minds and worlds. Kaur accomplishes this feat with expert precision and passion. She speaks to readers directly, openly, and honestly.
Divided into 4 parts, “the hurting,” “the loving,” “the breaking,” and “the healing,” Milk and Honey tells a story of loss, heartbreak, love, and uncertainty.
The book begins with a provocative, relatable poem:
“how is it so easy for you
to be kind to people he asked
milk and honey dripped from my lips as i answered
cause people have not
been kind to me”
Kaur’s work is undeniably fiercely feminist, which the above piece exemplifies. Women are taught to consistently perform emotional labor at the expense of our own well-being. We are expected to gloss over things, be kind to everyone in our lives, no matter how they may have wronged us.
Another poem reads:
“you were so afraid
of my voice
i decided to be
afraid of it too”
I can recall multiple occasions when my voice has been silenced because I spoke truth to power. As an outspoken, unapologetic feminist, discussing and advocating for social justice has often led to privileged individuals invalidating and diminishing what I have to say, causing me to fear my own voice.
So whenever I’m lost or unsure of myself, I open Milk and Honey and instantly feel less alone.
I was hooked from the start and couldn’t stop until the very last word. Pour yourself a mug of hot milk and honey, sit back, and soak in Kaur’s genius.