Milk and Honey (poetry collection)

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Milk and Honey
Milk and Honey (poetry collection).jpg
First edition
AuthorRupi Kaur
PublisherAndrews McMeel Publishing
Publication date
Pages226 pp (hardcover)

Milk and Honey (stylized as milk and honey) is a collection of poetry and prose by Rupi Kaur. The collection is about survival. It is divided into sections, with each section serving a different purpose and relevance to Kaur’s experience. The sections explore the themes of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.[1]

Kaur’s writing style stems from her cultural background and desire to be accessible to the audience:[2] however, her style and intentions have also been a target of negative controversies and rumors.[3]

Milk and Honey was published on November 4, 2014.[4] This poetry collection was sold over 3 million times.[5] As of June 7, 2020, it has been listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for 165 weeks.[6]

Kaur has a large following on social media.[7] Critics have called Kaur's work Instapoetry; "Instapoets" are poets who have risen to fame by using social media to leverage their work.[8]


Kaur was born in India and later moved to Canada at the age of four.[9] Her household continued to center the values of the Punjabi-Sikhs people as they spoke only the Punjabi language at home.[10]

After arriving in Canada, at the age of 5, Kaur began reading, drawing, writing poetry, and painting because she could not speak English and struggled to make friends.[11] Kaur eventually learned English by fourth grade and credits her finding her voice to community open microphone nights.[10] As she got older she continued reciting her poems at open mic events and gathered a group of followers who showed interest in Kaur expanding her poems in the book.[11]

Kaur has 4 million followers on Instagram,[12] which is where she first gained fame through her photography and poem posts.[5] This medium of work is called Instapoetry. Kaur’s is recognized as Instapoet, because her Instagram feed was where she published her poems.[8]

In 2015, Kaur posted a photo on Instagram showing her menstrual blood on her pants as an opposition to a “misogynist society”.[10] For a school project, Kaur posted a photo on Instagram, which received over 100,000 likes, where her menstrual blood could be seen on her bed sheets and sweatpants.[5] This photo was removed twice from the platform. In response to her photo being taken down, Kaur states, “'I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear, but not be OK with a small leak.’"[10] Her group of followers grew as she posted her poetry and controversial photography on Instagram earning the title of an Instapoet.[5]

Book's Contents[edit]

The book is divided into 4 themed chapters:[13] "the hurting," (30 poems), "the loving," (32 poems), "the breaking," ( 60 poems), and "the healing," (57 poems). Some of the singular poems, which follow the theme of the overall section, have drawings by Kaur.


The first chapter, "the hurting," is about the author's experience with sexual assault, abuse, and family issues.[14]

The next chapter, "the loving," has a lighter tone as the topic overall is about positive experiences. The poems have been described as sweet, and they are supposed to remind couples of the good things in a relationship.[14] This section is described as being filled with the emotions of falling in love with love and life.[13]

"The breaking," brings the reader back to a dark place in the author's life. These realistic poems relate to the sad feeling after a breakup.[14] While speaking about the effects after love is gone, Kaur speaks about a break-up to-do list.[13]

The last chapter, "the healing," tries to comfort and show women that they should embrace who they are and that they are valuable, no matter what they had to endure.[14] This section also speaks to embracing your emotions as they are important to improving one’s internal strength and abilities.[15] Another aspect of this section which critic Davis positively speaks upon is that it speaks to the idea that loss is not necessarily a bad thing, which is an ideology readers are not accustomed to.[15]


This collection uses sexual terminology, accessible language, and discusses personal trauma that is recommended for the ages of 14 and up. Kaur jumps between first- and second-person pronouns and breaks the conventional rules of traditional poetry to honor Punjabi, the language of her birthplace.[2] She writes with lower-case letters and uses little punctuation similar to the writing features in Punjabi.[2] Her style is direct, which enables the reader to develop a relationship with the author.[16]


Positive Reviews[edit]

Kaur's poetry has been described as easy and simple and it is credited with changing people's views of poetry, because "she tells it how it is".[17]

Milk and Honey received criticism regarding InstaPoetry, with Bustle stating that Kaur and the book have "by far born the brunt of these critiques. For every positive review of Kaur's work, there is at least one scathing critique, ranging from actual engagement with her writing to cheap shots claiming she had 'commodified her South Asian heritage'".[18] Critic John Maher of Publishers Weekly has described Kaur "as a polarizing figure" for literacy, publishing, and media who might be able to make poems sell again.[19] Maher also stated that while a 2015 survey reported a drop in poetry reading between 1992 and 2012, poetry sales figures doubled in 2017, two years after Kaur published Milk and Honey.[19]

Negative Reviews[edit]

Chiara Giovanni critiques Kaur’s ability to be a representative for women empowerment, stating, “‘there is something deeply uncomfortable about the self-appointed spokesperson of South Asian womanhood being a privileged young woman from the West’”.[3]

The book received criticism over claims that Kaur's work plagiarized that of Nayyirah Waheed. Critics cited similarities between the two poets' writing style of short poems with jagged punctuation and line breaks, and for the same imagery.[20]


Kaur was not able to find a publisher, so she decided to self-publish Milk and Honey.[4] Having learned how to design and edit in college, Kaur self-published her book with a budget of zero dollars.[11] After first self-publishing Milk and Honey, the book was later under Andrews McMeel Publishing.[5]

It was listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for more than 77 weeks.[5] It has also been translated into 25 languages.[5]

See also[edit]

  • The Sun and Her Flowers
    • This is the second poetry collection that follows Milk and Honey that completes the series. Kaur maintains her writing style and drawings in The Sun and Her Flowers as she did in Milk and Honey.[21]
  • The Princess Saves Herself In This One
    • This poetry collection is described as the most reminiscent of Milk and Honey, not only does this book speak of women empowerment, but it is said to be as powerful by critic Holstrom.[21]


  1. ^ McAfee, Brooke (Mar 5, 2017). "Rupi Kaur's 'Milk and Honey' Takes the Stage". University Wire.
  2. ^ a b c "5 Reasons Rupi Kaur Is the Poet of Our Times". Barnes & Noble Reads. 2018-01-09. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  3. ^ a b Ahsan, Sadaf (Oct 14, 2017). "Free Verse; how Brampton's Rupi Kaur Defies Her Critics Sadaf Ahsan". National Post.
  4. ^ a b Ciotola, Julie (2017-02-09). "Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur: Book Review". Paperback Paris. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Mzezewa, Tariro (5 Oct 2017). "Rupi Kaur Is Kicking Down the Doors of Publishing". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 Dec 2018.
  6. ^ "Paperback Trade Fiction - The New York Times Best Seller list". The New York Times. 7 June 2020. Retrieved 8 Jul 2020.
  7. ^ Gross, Anisse (2016). "Andrews McMeel hits sweet spot with 'Milk and Honey'". Publishers Weekly. 263: 9pp – via Literature Resource Center.
  8. ^ a b Khaira-Hanks, Priya (2017-10-04). "Rupi Kaur: the inevitable backlash against Instagram's favourite poet". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  9. ^ Henley, Tara (Oct 7, 2017). "Rupi Kaur: Style Meets Verse to Inspire a Generation". The Toronto Star.
  10. ^ a b c d "How poet Rupi Kaur became a hero to millions of young women". PBS NewsHour. 2018-01-02. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  11. ^ a b c "Rupi Kaur Reads Timeless from Her Poetry Collection The Sun and Her Flowers". YouTube. June 26, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  12. ^ "rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) • Instagram photos and videos". Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  13. ^ a b c Adcox, Abigail (May 17, 2016). "Kaur's 'Milk and Honey' Pulls at the Heartstrings". Daily Press.
  14. ^ a b c d Tiede, Jessica (April 2017). "Book Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur". Her Campus at University of Washington.
  15. ^ a b Davis, Rebecca (Feb 24, 2016). "Review: 'Milk and Honey,' serving up a sweet taste of life for readers". Vidette.
  16. ^ Singh, Simran (May 2018). "Review of Rupi Kaur's 'Milk and Honey'". Owlcation.
  17. ^ Walker, Rob (May 27, 2017). "The young 'Instapoet' Rupi Kaur: from social media star to bestselling writer". The Guardian. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  18. ^ Miller, E. CE (March 2018). "Are 'InstaPoets' Destroying The Art Form Or Reviving It? A Defense Of Social Media Poetry". Bustle. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  19. ^ a b Maher, John (February 2018). "Can Instagram Make Poems Sell Again? Internet-famous inspirational verse is selling big--and other poetry is seeing a bump too". Publishers Weekly. 265: 4–8 – via Literature Resource Center.
  20. ^ "Did Rupi Kaur plagiarize parts of 'Milk & Honey' from this Tumblr poet?". July 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  21. ^ a b Holstrom, Ashley (2018-05-03). "18 Powerful Poetry Books Like MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur". BOOK RIOT. Retrieved 2020-05-06.