An Exploration of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey
Poetry is an undervalued form of expression in the modern world. Oftentimes we choose to value length and complexity over simplicity and intent. This alters our perceptions of writing, implanting the idea that writing cannot be good or worthy unless it is complex to the point of incomprehensibleness. Rupi Kaur, a recently self-published poet, uses her first collection of poetry entitled Milk and Honey to fight back against these incorrect beliefs while simultaneously entertaining and inspiring millions of people in various countries.
The physical composition of her book is one that makes a clear statement on an international scale. The cover of her collection is simple, with bold white lettering and minimalistic line drawings of honeybees on a plain black background. The pairing of rigidly structured sections that contain very unstructured poetry speaks volumes about the content long before any of her words do. Kaur’s collection begins with a simple, vaguely emotional dedication, “for the arms that hold me.” As the reader delves deeper into the poetry, the value to the author of this revealing statement becomes apparent. The next two pages, much like the rest of the book, are also very simple. One is a table of contents for the four main sections of this book and the other is a brief poem written in her iconic style about actually writing the book that had occupied space in her mind for so long.
Even without the literature inside, the book’s physical presence makes a strong statement about simplicity and simply being. It’s bichrome color scheme provides rigid structure for a variety of subjects that are all open to the author’s interpretation and can easily transform to off topic rants at the drop of a hat. Due to this, she walks the line of honest expression and fed up ranting delicately. It is difficult for a female to express her feelings in a sensible way without being made to seem overly emotional or whiny. In her words, her subject matter is femininity, love, loss, trauma, and healing. All intense emotional topics, any author’s interpretation of them could be taken in wildly different directions.
Touching again on the physical arrangement of her poetry, it is obvious when thumbing through the pages there are many grammatical inconsistencies that come off as a poor editing job. However, upon deeper reflection it can be seen that these so called “errors” were made with intent and are designed to serve a purpose within her poetry. In a quote from her website, she answers the question of why she chose this particular method of composition.
“although i can read and understand my mother tongue (punjabi) i do not have the skillset to write poetry in it. to write punjabi means to use gurmukhi script. and within this script there are no uppercase or lowercase letters. all letters are treated the same. i enjoy how simple that is. how symmetrical and how absolutely straightforward. i also feel there is a level of equality this visuality brings to the work. a visual representation of what i want to see more of within the world: equalness.”
At face level, it seems as if her style is one without reason, or one with paltry reasoning behind it. With our glimpse into her thought process through these question and answer style pages, we can understand that it was not simply a matter of disregarding the rules of English. With her honest answer about her limitations in language, we come to understand the importance of the style she uses to write her poetry. Her style is about equality and simplicity, and her book exemplifies these values from the color scheme used all the way to the chosen punctuation.
Many of her poems are short, brief emotional expressions about the actions of another or her reactions to such things. Her short statements leave the reader feeling inspired, with her words becoming a soundtrack of self-confidence in their daily lives. Her poems encourage courage in the face of adversity, power instead of pity, and love as a remedy to pain and anger.
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Poetry is an undervalued form of expression in the modern world. Oftentimes we choose to value length and complexity over simplicity and intent. This alters our perceptions of writing, implanting […]