Review: Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015.

milk and honeyI 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.

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27 thoughts on “Review: Milk and Honey

  1. Savana Charter - The Biblio Life says:

    I am actually really happy to see an honest review of this book. I’ve seen such raves about it (although to be honest I haven’t actually sat down to find out what it was about until now) yet I’ve been hesitant to pick it up. After reading this I probably won’t. But I too am an English major and I have a feeling that I’d think very similarly about it. I appreciate your honesty and explanations for why you didn’t like it, oh and thanks for saving me $10 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sea Reads says:

    I see single poems from the boom floating around social media now and again, and I’m not surprised at all surprised by your opinions of it. I’ll keep reading the poems that pop up on Facebook, but pass on the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nika says:

    I haven’t read this book but I follow Rupi Kaur on Instagram where she “publishes” some of her poems. And there, I like them. They’re simple and I read them while I’m scrolling down 🙂
    But I agree with your review totally. I just hope that maybe this book would encourage people to read poetry more and that people would pick some other, better books.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Zezee says:

    Great review there. I haven’t read this one but have seen many rave reviews of it. Personally, I prefer those simple poems. They use few words to carry a great message and so have a great impact, but I say this with salt by Nayyirah Waheed in mind. They often seemed liked proverbs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mudandstars says:

    Great review! I completely agree with you – I keep hearing wonderful things about this collection, and it’s so great that it has resonated with so many people, but… Every time I’m in a bookshop, I end up picking it up, thinking there must be something I’m missing… then I open it, read some of the poems, and remember why I always put it back on the shelf. For me, they are far too simplistic to be good poetry. But then I’m an English Lit graduate too… let’s be poetry snobs together 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. MyBookJacket says:

    GOD BLESS YOU! I completely agree with this post. These “poems” would have been ripped into shreds if I’d presented it to any of my lit teachers. I can’t imagine that people actually like and appreciate this. If that’s the case I can write a whole book in a day and send it off to be published! Damn.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Morgan @ Backlist Babe says:

    THANK YOU. Joe and I were talking about this collection (okay… we were bitching, but that’s the same thing) after seeing a few of the poems floating around the Internet. I get the hype (accessible poetry, hooray!) but only to a certain extent because, like you said, many of the poems were just normal sentences broken up onto lines to add dramatic emphasis. It’s the content my junior high self would have thrown into a lit mag, proclaiming that I was being “deep.”

    Also, what few poems I read were just “Duh” poems with no substance. It’s so great to see someone breaking Milk & Honey apart like this because I’ve read way too many hyped reviews that I was starting to think I was confusing this collection with another.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. izzysreads says:

    I haven’t read the whole collection, but seeing so many of those poems on social media made me seriously scratch my head a little! I couldn’t understand all the hype. Haha after seeing so many rave reviews, I was so confused and wasn’t sure if I had to pick it up. Thanks for the honest review!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. lostartofreadingblog says:

    Awe I’m so sorry you didn’t like it, I had only heard good reviews before. I haven’t read it yet, I am next on the waiting list at the library so hopefully soon. Then again I am now just dipping my toe in the scary world of poetry so it may help me that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anj @ seaweed books says:

    I liked Milk and Honey when I read it back in January, but now, looking back, I feel that I may reduce my initial 4 star rating to 3 stars. Every reader goes through that phase where he/she jumps on to write a full-blown review right after he/she has completed the book. *and that happened to me.* So, I jumped onto goodreads after seconds of closing the book and the result: yup. Incoherent thoughts *as if Anj ever writes coherently bleh* I may change the rating,now that I am pretty sure my thoughts are clear about this book. Although I felt that the poetry pieces were really small in places, it is still a great feminist book. And of course, great review, Rose! ❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | Rose Read says:

      Thank you! Yeah, I don’t write reviews right away for that reason. I usually wait a few days (sometimes weeks), but even then, I often find myself raising or lowering my rating once more time has gone by, like months and years. I think that has to do with how it sticks in my memory. I think I may have written a post about this phenomenon at some point. It’s really weird! But like, I also don’t want to forget details so I don’t want to wait too long to post a review. Tricky!

      Liked by 1 person

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