Books of poetry, in my experience, don’t usually make the top of the “Best Sellers” list, so when one does–and stays there–there must be a significant cultural need for those poems. I picked up “milk and honey” after skimming through it at work, and I’m glad I did.
To be honest, I finished reading “milk and honey” back in December, after I bought it, but I’ve been sitting on how I’ve wanted to review it since then because I don’t know exactly what I want to say. I recommend it to customers, some of whom don’t realize when they first pick it up that it’s poetry, because it’s emotionally charged and I feel like a lot of the accounts within the poems via the speaker are important to be heard (or read, rather, in this case). It’s the kind of book of poems that takes a lot out of you (the people who I’ve talked to about it have admitted to, at some points, crying), but in a good way. Even if you’re not someone who regularly reads poetry, these poems don’t ask that you spend a significant time doing the analysis of them–which is easy for me to say, when that’s second nature at this point–but they are, for the most part, easily accessible.
A lot of conversation about poetry can include whether or not it’s something that non-poets/English majors are able to grab and understand, and while poems are, I think, puzzles, and part of the joy of reading them can be deciphering them, nobody wants to read something that’s going to remind them of a high school English class they disliked. It can be difficult to get into something that’s going to make you work for it, and while you do have to work to get “milk and honey,” that work is primarily empathetic and being able to care. The speaker is rarely if ever off-putting, and that makes it easier for a reader to get involved in the acts discussed within the poem.
The simplicity of some of the poems in this book is probably one of its greatest strengths; Kaur does a good job of proving that you don’t always need to make your reader bend over backwards interpreting metaphors in order to prove a point. Even the illustrations within the book–black and white line drawings almost reminiscent of Shel Silverstein–are fairly simple, and there’s a nice vulnerability and the willingness not to hide meaning behind literary devices.
If you want a collection of poems that will make you feel something and won’t ask too much of you the reader, check out “milk and honey.” It’s out in both hard cover and paperback.