Poetry review: Milk and Honey

by Jack Miles


Milk and Honey is no ordinary poetry book. It is raw, relatable and full of emotion through to the core. The book deals with abuse, love, loss, and femininity. The book is split into four chapters, each one dealing with a different pain, specifically involving relationships. Though some of the poems may seem unoriginal, Rupi Kaur takes readers through the most bitter points in her life and finds the silver lining beneath. Overall, though, I found this book to be just a little underwhelming.

Most reviews I have heard said it was the most beautiful thing they had ever read, but honestly the book was a bit plain. Many of the poems in this book were a bit unoriginal, especially when it came to the whole empowerment of women and feminism aspect. The idea that women want a man and don’t need a man is something I have heard over and over again for years. Not that these topics are not important, but Kaur makes her points in a very “vanilla” fashion. For example, on one page in the third chapter it simply says:

“love is not cruel

we are cruel

love is not a game

we have made a game

out of love.”

This, and many other poems in her book, seem just very cliché and “already done”. Many of her poems seem like something that would appear inside of a fortune cookie:

“give to those who have nothing to give you.”

“some people are so bitter… to them you must be kindest.”

These are just a few examples.

Many of the poems in this book have been compared to things found on Twitter and Tumblr, which could be the authors intent; panning to a much younger, more modern audience. To me, this seemed a bit cheap and effortless which is unfortunate because I can tell Kaur poured copious amounts of emotion into this project. Along with the simple feel to the writing, the formatting in this book seems somewhat random and choppy. The lines and stanzas seem to cut out at odd places, causing for weird pauses in dialogue when reading through the works. Aside from the generic feel to the poems, most of this book really lacks lyricism; most of the works read just like regular everyday sentences, especially in the last chapter of the book. The points and ideas in the book are good, I only wish the author had conveyed them a bit more poetically.

There were many things I liked about this book, though. Many of the poems from the first chapters of the book were based off real experiences the author had with physical and sexual abuse. These poems were very moving and impactful because she dug up those emotions she felt during the attacks and portrayed it in an extremely vivid and visual way. For example, one poem that hit me quite hard was:

“he guts her

with his fingers

like he’s scraping

the inside of a

cantaloupe clean”

Some of her writing can be so descriptive, the book touches on all five of the human senses.

I really enjoyed reading the stories about her life and personal experiences much more than some of the more pandering poems towards the end of the book. For example, she tells us about the first boy who kissed her:

“The first boy that kissed me

held my shoulders down

like the handlebars of

the first bicycle

he ever rode

I was five


He had the smell of

starvation on his lips

which he picked up from

his father feasting on his mother at 4 a.m.


he was the first boy

to teach me my body was

for giving to those that wanted

that I should feel anything

less than whole


and my god

did I feel as empty

as his mother at 4:25 a.m.”

This is by far my favorite poem in the book because I have never experienced what it is like to be a woman who has been sexually assaulted and this piece gave me just a little taste; it is easy to empathize with the author in this poem, and many others.

This leads me to another reason why I liked this book and why I personally think it is so popular. It is super relatable. Anyone who has gone through a bad break up, been in an unhealthy relationship, or just has relationship problems in general should read this book. Despite the slight lack of artistic flair in these poems, so many times was I reading this book and felt like she was speaking to exact moments and experiences I have had in my own life.

“I don’t want to be friends; I want all of you.”

This is a line from the third chapter of the book. I’m sure everyone has had someone who they are just friends with who they wish could be so much more.

I believe there is a time and place to read this book: directly after you break up with a significant other. When we end a relationship with someone who was once a big part of our life, we feel all sorts of strange emotions and think “crazy” thoughts that we believe no one else understands. Rupi Kaur understands. Milk and Honey is there for you when nobody else is; it is a voice that tells you that what you feel is natural and others have been in your shoes before. You are not alone.

This book might not be 100% beautiful, aesthetically pleasing art but it serves a great purpose for young people, especially women, who might be struggling with relationships and self-image. I believe the only reason I did not enjoy this book more is because I was not in the correct state of mind when I read it. If you are having difficulty letting go of someone, doubting your self-worth, or confused about how to move on, I would highly recommend this book.


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