24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: poetry

Abby Reads: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017, 256 pages
Poetry

Following up her major success with Milk and Honey, poet Rupi Kaur brings a new collection of poetry to her audience. In The Sun and Her Flowers, Kaur explores relationships with herself, her mother, men, and society at large. With each section themed by relationship and the conflicts found in those relationships, Kaur also finds focus on concepts such as identity, feminism, immigration, racism, and beyond. Concise language pairs with simple 35606560illustrations to pull this reasonably-sized collection of poetry together and follow up on one of the most well-known collections of poetry of late.

Realistically, The Sun and Her Flowers is going to be compared to Milk and Honey and its enormous success (and, if you pick up The Sun and Her Flowers, you’ll likely find yourself doing the same), so let’s get that out of the way: The Sun and Her Flowers, though very similar to Milk and Honey, is not quite as good. Perhaps it is because so much of what is present in The Sun and Her Flowers has already been done in Milk and Honey so, while the quality is perhaps the same, it doesn’t feel quite as new or as revolutionary (which, caveat: there are lots of folks pointing out what Kaur has done isn’t original and is perhaps even plagiarism) as it did in Kaur’s first collection. (Plus, and this isn’t Kaur’s fault, but, let’s be honest — Milk and Honey’s cover is far more useful for Instagram purposes than is The Sun and Her Flowers. Just saying.)

In the section about breakups, Kaur mixes language that feels entirely fresh and original while other poems spout out the same kind of melodramatic and eye-roll-inducing phrases you’d expect to find in your middle school journal. Though Kaur is forced to use dramatic language due to her extremely pared down style (most of the poems are still no more than a dozen or two dozen words at most — a couple exceptions extend into a full two pages’ worth of words, albeit with still very short lines), the cliches she employs in this “chapter” in particular feel especially cheap.

Meanwhile, in poems about her mother, Kaur presents a relationship with plenty of gray areas and conflicting feelings that are displayed with powerful language and ideas. From admiration to resentment, though Kaur speaks in specifics with particular attention to her mother’s status as an immigrant and what that means for Kaur, the notions Kaur illustrates are largely universal. Readers will find plenty of familiar material in the collection as a whole, but some of the more striking pieces sit within the context of Kaur and her mother’s relationship.

The Sun and Her Flowers is somewhat lengthy; not all of the pieces included necessarily should have been. While Milk and Honey felt to be a good length, many of the poems in The Sun and Her Flowers felt extraneous and repetitive. Given that a handful of poems felt especially like extracts from a middle school journal, the length of The Sun and Her Flowers doesn’t make sense, except that due to the popularity of Milk and Honey, Kaur and her editors likely felt they could get away with a longer piece and that fans might want it regardless of the actual quality.

The illustrations of the poetry are still a great addition to the work as a whole. Simple, wiry, and beautiful, each drawing works to provide additional dimension and emotion to the page. Despite their simplicity, however, the illustrations are always clear in what they are meant to be, even when their representation does not quite match the content of the poem with which they are paired.

Overall The Sun and Her Flowers is another win for Kaur. Though not a perfect set of poems and lacking in some places in one way or another, fans of Milk and Honey will appreciate a return to many themes (if it’s perhaps a bit limiting) in overlapping concepts while finding new life in poems about mother-daughter relationships. Kaur’s concise and powerful language continues to make her work incredibly accessible and therefore a popular choice for an entry point to poetry. An easy metaphor of plants and growth underscores this accessibility as well as the stark femininity with which Kaur themes her collection. Though you don’t need to rush out and buy this one, it is worth a read.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015, 208 pages
Poetry

Rupi Kaur’s collection of poems is truly a collection for women who don’t like poetry. And that is to say, the book is for everyone, but especially and even for women who don’t like poetry. The movement of poems throughout the book showcases a sort-of narrative that might be any woman’s narrative, making the unspoken spoken. Once you’ve read Milk and Honey, you know not only that you’ve joined a very special community, but that a community has been there all along, seemingly existing only in the mist and in-between. For this, alone, Kaur’s work should be lauded, but truly, there’s more (and don’t even get me started on that gorgeous cover — there’s a reason it’s all of Instagram).

Each poem in the collection features short lines with simple language, making the work as a whole accessible. Yet Kaur’s incredible skill with syntax and precise vocabulary lends the collection an impact I’ve rarely seen in one poem, let alone a full set. Some poems are also accompanied by a simple illustration. These are done by Kaur and complement the text of the book with a matching raw starkness.

With topics ranging from love to abuse to living in a patriarchal society to self-love, one of Kaur’s most powerful moves is that she shows that there is strength in pain. We often hear phrases like, “Real men cry,” which we take to mean that it takes strength to have and show emotion. That concept had never really become concrete for me until I read Milk and Honey, however. Kaur, or her narrator, unashamedly feels things and puts those feelings into words and poetry that reaches out and says, “I’ve been there, too. Let’s feel it together,” in a way.

This togetherness is stilted in one aspect, however. With Kaur’s nearly-clear narrative with a neat beginning, middle, and end, her story is somewhat less relatable that it might have been in a less structured design. The straight narrative reinforces the idea that this is of a particular character, who, regardless of their reality, is a single person. With the focus on the one, it is slightly more difficult to expand to the all.

Men who encounter Milk and Honey with an open mind will probably walk away from it with a much greater understanding of what, for many, many women, womanhood is. Kaur sums up the minute and ambiguous beautifully, accurately, succinctly, and exactly. What so many women for the duration of womanhood have been trying to say (and only a few have done successfully) is here in these few pages. Even if you “hate” or “don’t get” poetry, give Kaur’s work a try — you won’t regret it.

❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

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