Milk and Honey was the first poetry book that I ever read, yet it has taken me this long to actually write about it. The reason being is this – no matter what I would write about this book and about Rupi Kaur, it just wouldn’t be enough.
Milk and Honey isn’t just significant in a literary sense and I think that’s what makes it different. This book has so many connotations attached to it. Grief. Trauma. Physical abuse. Mental breakdown. Emotional misfortune. Culture. Healing. And so on. Perhaps another significant thing is that the author – Rupi Kaur – has become a renowned speaker around the world, inspiring people in different places with spoken word and changing their lives as she does so.
Milk and Honey is something completely unique which is why it becomes difficult to exemplify it in the category of contemporary poetry along with the rest. This is because you get poetry that touches your soul, allows you to feel certain emotions, takes you to a different world altogether and soothes your insides. And then you get writers like Rupi Kaur who are a revolution in themselves. Rupi Kaur doesn’t just write, she battles, she is a master with a pen, an epitome of literary supremacy and a symbol of healing after experiencing misfortune.
Rupi Kaur is loved and adored by so many around the world because of her willpower, strength and confidence to allow words to pour from her heart and onto paper for the world to be inspired by. It takes confidence to pour feelings from your heart on paper and share it with the world. However, it takes a complete warrior to share their misfortunes with the world so that it can encourage others, it takes a complete warrior to share experiences that completely destroyed her and from which she eventually soared – and Rupi Kaur is just that. She is a warrior.
Milk and Honey was compiled from writings Rupi started writing from a young age. The vividness, authenticity and truth in each piece are evidence that each poem was a reflection of Rupi’s emotions to experiences she had in her life. Each piece felt painfully credible and managed to highlight the plight of so many who have experienced hell and have/have not been able to overcome it. Alongside each piece is a beautiful, raw illustration which helps illuminate the essence of that particular piece for the reader. It allows each piece to become all the more sharp, all the more engaging for us.
This book definitely managed to string so many chords in my soul, my heart and my mind that I couldn’t help but admire Rupi’s courage to not only change her life around, but to spark so many others to do the same for themselves.
When it comes to the structure and style of the book, it is all the more powerful. In explaining the reason for why she only uses lower case and full stops, Rupi refers to her mother-tongue Punjabi and explains that she is inspired by the way it is written in Sikh scriptures (Gurmukhi) – there are no upper-case letters and only full stops. She feels that this is extremely straightforward and also manages to treat all the letters as equals. This is inspiring. To use her poetry to give respect to, as well as, not forget our Sikh heritage is something not many manage to do through their writing, but Rupi does just that.
It is this and many other factors that make this book, as well as Rupi herself, extremely exhilarating.
In her ted talk, Rupi refers to our bodies as our houses and says our home is where our body is. When I listened to this, my whole worldview was completely enlightened and I was able to see people and their predicaments in a different light altogether. Using this concept of houses, Rupi helped explain how we perceive our different plights. In every difficult situation, our houses are damaged in some way – in sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental trauma, gender-trauma, emotional abuse and so on. In each case, either we feel robbed, or threatened, or as if we are in ‘the wrong house’, but in each case, the concept of us being ‘a home’ remains the same. For me, this is the most straightforward and most well-conceptualised way of communicating to the world that she understands, she knows and she wants everyone to also understand themselves.
Another important factor about Rupi is her connection to her heritage and her identity which makes me and so many coloured people around the world feel understood and listened to. We feel as if we are on the same winded journey of life, tumbling in one direction and the other, trying to reconcile our experiences amidst the two culturally distinct worlds that we are constituted by. But everyone can learn from this. It is not just a Sikh woman who comes from a certain heritage is able to paint a picture this theatrical; every person who has a heritage, who takes something from her mother, and her mother’s mother, and her father and his generation etc. There is so much that every single person that reads Milk and Honey and listens to Rupi’s talks is able to learn from.
I can say a lot more about this book as well as about Rupi, but I feel as if no matter what I say, it’ll be less in comparison to the magnitude of what she has done and what her writing has done for everyone.
All I can say is that this book is something completely unique, different and off the mark and it is not just a book but a materialisation of a worldview from someone who has experienced, stumbled and fallen but has risen once more.
So, the time comes again to pick a poem that I absolutely loved from Milk and Honey and I will have to pick two because picking one is just impossible.
So, here is goes:
- i need someone
who knows struggle
as well as i do
willing to hold my feet in their lap
on days it is too difficult to stand
the type of person who gives
exactly what i need
before i even know i need it
the type of lover who hears me
even when i do not speak
is the type of understanding
– the type of lover i need
- our backs
no books have
the spine to
– women of color
Rupi Kaur will always be an inspiring woman and a wonderful speaker who has the ability to change so many people around her.
I highly recommend reading this unique piece of literature – Milk and Honey – and delving into the beauty of pure prose that arises out of being broken.
Until next week,