In the first country I lived in we had these small packets of liquorice called GaJol. They were my favourite, because I like liquorice, but also because on the back of each packet was a small joke, a word play or a fancy quote. Sometimes I would tear one off and keep them, but most of the time I just read them and threw them away, and the ones I kept would disappear as well – into the cracks of furniture and pockets and books.
You see where this is going right?
Milk and Honey is not a collection of poetry. There is no poetry inside. There are stilted, maimed sentences and simple clean drawings, but not an inch of poetry. Sure there is trauma and heartbreak and hope and love, but an openness about trauma is not poetry.
Poetry is an art form where the aesthetics of the words play against the content. It is not poorly thought out metaphors or overused facsimile. I mean, I swear I’d heard some of these “poems” before as simple proverbs. Random line breaks and fragmented sentences is the kind of poetry 12-year olds write until they learn more about poetry and understand that the breaks as much as the words is what makes the poetry sing.
It made me so angry that I had to find other people on the internet who agreed with me. I found this buzzfeed-read which was quite excellent:
Still I’ll give her props for pissing me off. This is not poetry. I hate it so much. It is so small and choppy that it is easy to take the bits you need and throw the rest away. It’s tumblr-poetry. It’s recognition-poetry. It’s “oh yeah, I’ve felt that before.” Real poetry, real art, it must transcend yourself from yourself so you can see your emotions in new light, from new angles. It must be more than a pull quote on the back of a liquorice package.
And yet I dig the smooth cover, the intense use of white space across the pages that read as an emptiness (but not as poetry). This is a tactile, visual production. I use the word production for while it recognizes emotion, the poetry does not evoke them. I don’t want words for what I’m already feeling, I want words to make me feel something else. Milk and Honey is a curational attempt to capture a common, lived human experience through a deeply personal lense. It fails on being captivating and as a personal account it is exceedingly dull.
The one star is for the cover. Lose this book behind a couch. Or kill it. Kill it with fire.