Every once in a while fate has an uncanny way of delivering the right book into your hands at exactly the right moment. I recently spent an hour reading “Milk and Honey” precisely at a point in my life when I needed to hear its words, absorb its sentiments and have someone tell me I wasn’t alone. Honestly, it’s as if it had been written just for me.
It’s a collection of poems, but not, I think, one designed to be dipped in and out of; it lends itself to being read in one wrenching go. It begins by chronicling the sexual and emotional abuse the author endured in her younger years, before moving on to love, loss and finally ruminations on femininity and how the poet’s relationships with men have influenced the way she views herself. The poems are for the most part stark and sparse, and the vocabulary she chooses is often relatively simple; the cleverness lies in the way she arranges these somewhat unremarkable words into such striking, searing combinations. Many poems are only a few words long, but these were actually some of my favourites. There are just so many I’d like to share on here, but these are just a couple of the shorter ones that stood out for me:
the idea that we are
so capable of love
but still choose
to be toxic
we are all born
the greatest tragedy is
being convinced we are not
Many of the poems are written in this way, without capitalisation or punctuation, and as such they come across as spontaneous bursts of thought; authentic, heartfelt and without artifice.
I was having a conversation with someone the other day about poetry and how hard it is to get up the courage to share what you’ve written; I remarked that I feel it’s the most personal form of writing there is, hence the hesitation over making it public. The impression I was left with at the end of “Milk and Honey” was of a poet who has been incredibly brave in committing her most personal, in many cases traumatic, experiences to paper. I for one am so glad she did so. Although the abusive aspect of her life is, mercifully, not something I have suffered myself, her candid meditations on love, desire and the issues that cloud loving relationships are exactly the thoughts I would have expressed if I’d had the talent to put them into words in this way. To know that the feelings which constantly batter and torment your mind are shared by someone else is like a burden being lifted. I only hope I can emerge into the state of positivity that seeps into some of the later poems; this courageous and insightful young woman has inspired me to try and do so.
If you’re at all interested in poetry, read this. If you are a woman then definitely read this. Rupi Kaur is truly the mouthpiece of millions.