Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015.
I picked up Milk and Honey because I kept seeing it everywhere and didn’t know much about it. I didn’t even know it was a book of poetry, so that was a nice surprise which led me to actually read it right away instead of putting it on my endless TBR. I would like to read more poetry in general, so I’m glad I picked this up. Ultimately though, I have mixed feelings about this collection, and I was largely unimpressed.
Milk and Honey is split into different themed sections as the poems progress through the life of a writer dealing with sexual abuse, love, relationships, and healing. Many of the poems are accompanied by illustrations that add to the poems’ meanings. The illustrations are styled in a black-and-white, scribble-y way that mimics the rawness of the poems themselves. These additions were well-placed and gave the collection a distinct and unified tone throughout.
As a collection, the book is best read from front to back in order. You certainly can pick it up, turn to any page, and read the poem there, but the biggest impact comes from seeing the progression of poems as they are ordered. The design of the book is extremely well done, and as a physical object, I can see how it appeals to people in the age when having a distinct look/brand makes a difference in sales. This book has an effective brand with it’s raw, simple, black-and-white, minimalist layout.
But the poems kinda sucked.
Here’s where I didn’t actually like the book. It’s got everything going for it, except for the actual poetry. The poems are simple and easy-to-read, which makes them accessible to the average reader. This explains why a book of poetry made it to the best-seller list. I really should have known.
It’s great that this book brought poetry collections to a wider audience of people who wouldn’t normally read poetry. That’s why I’m so torn about it. I love the fact that it may make more people interested in reading poetry. The book wouldn’t have been as popular if the poems weren’t so simple, so if the goal was to get people reading poetry, goal accomplished! If the goal was to write good poetry, however… not so much.
I can probably count on one hand how many poems in this book actually made me think, or reflect, or smile, or ponder, or any of the other things I want to do while reading poetry. The rest were basically very simple sentences that happened to have line breaks. I can do that. Watch:
He was everything
I thought I wanted
but to him
I was nothing.
Boom! I just wrote a poem that could easily fit right into Milk and Honey. I am somewhat prone to exaggeration on this blog for the lols, but this is actually not one of those times. This poem might even be better than some of the ones in Milk and Honey, and I wrote it in less than a minute.
I hate that I’m sounding snobbish here, but my inner English major cannot call this good poetry, so I apologize if I sound pretentious. Again, I understand that these poems resonate with a large group of people, probably mostly women who have experienced any of the things the poems touch on, from love to hurt. If you’ve ever been in a relationship ever, there is something in this book to connect to. And again, the simplicity of the poetry is what made it so accessible. Unfortunately, it was poor quality poetry. I give it 2 stars for the powerful impact it has had on many readers, encouraging the reading of poetry. It did have excellent stylistic choices from an aesthetic standpoint, but the poetry was just poor.