Milk & Honey / Rupi Kaur
Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, c2015.
Another confessional piece, this self-published book of poetry took off and sold so extensively that it was traditionally published a year later. Rupi Kaur is a powerhouse, a writer, artist and performer in her mid-20s, based in Toronto. She travels the world delivering spoken word performances and facilitating writer's workshops. She also broke Instagram with her now famous banned-then-unbanned photo of herself with her period.
Milk & Honey is her first collection of personal poetry. It's poetry about the pain of breakups, of sexual violence, of family issues. It's clearly a teenage voice, full of longing, angst and pithy Instagrammable phrases. But it has most certainly hit a nerve; I've never heard a poetry book being talked about so much by regular readers. And I've never had to place a hold and wait on a poetry book at the library before!
I think it's great that so many younger people are interested in what Kaur is doing. She's a force unto herself. After she self-published this collection in 2014, she toured it and social media-d it to a more traditional publication/distribution. She's an artist who is also business minded and makes no apologies for her ambition. It's great to see.
The poetry itself, well, perhaps it doesn't speak to me as much as it does to her audience. It really does read like poetry by a teen/new adult writer. It's emotional and doesn't have much ironic distance from itself. It actually reminds me of the kind of poetry I was writing at that age as well -- though I never shared it with anyone and most definitely did not have the self possession to perform, publish, or believe that I could even consider any of those things. I'd say this poetry is not aimed at middle-aged women who are no longer surfing the ocean of relationship drama -- but it resonates deeply with that young woman we once were. And her readers are confirming that this kind of performance poetry/artwork is catching a whole new generation. Respect to Kaur for making it work.
Want to see more of Rupi Kaur? See a profile on Kaur & her popularity, by Flare magazine. And then explore her faq at her blog to learn how she got started and why.
Just for fun, I thought I'd dig out a notebook I kept, full of my carefully copied poetry from my undergraduate years. Ooh boy. Did that bring back memories! Here's a short piece I thought you might all enjoy, a pithy, emotional plea from the 19 yr old me: