Rupi Kaur’s Milk & Honey Controversy

Everything, of course, is subject to debate: art, religion, politics, sports. Poetry is no exception. So it’s no surprise Rupi Kaur’s Milk & Honey collection generated controversy.

That’s unfortunate.

In an age when book sales are down, chain bookstores struggle and fewer people read, the publication of a popular thought-provoking work should be cause for celebration. But as Trevor Stoddart, a fan of art in all its forms noted in a popular podcast I particularly enjoy, artists are often hated.

Kaur’s book is redeeming, if conflicted. I found the writing immediate, accessible and relevant. While the poems are deliberately aggressive, they’re also intimate and sincere.

Milk & Honey is inspiring and affirming. Occasionally a passage confirms thoughts we likely all share aren’t unique. Within such framework, there’s space for reflection, growth, even healing.

There’s triumph:

i do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
i want to be full on my own
i want to be so complete
i could light a whole city
and then
i want to have you
cause the two of us combined
could set it on fire

There’s compassion:

on days
like this
i need you to
run your fingers
through my hair
and speak softly

And there’s thankfulness:

i thank the universe
for taking
everything it has taken
and giving to me
everything it is giving

Some readers will enjoy Milk & Honey’s poems. Others will conclude the book is offensive or pedestrian.

Many (admittedly, including myself) celebrate Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, written on a long scroll at a 100-words-per-minute pace, as a seminal American novel. Truman Capote? Not so much. He’s quoted as saying, “that’s not writing, that’s typing.”

My point?

It’s your prerogative. It’s up to you to determine whether Kaur’s poems are insightful, meaningful and transformational. But before you can opine, first you must read the book, and I recommend you do.

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