Book Notes: Where we read and condense books down to their main takeaways for creatives.
I’ll admit first off, I am not a person who knows a lot about poetry. I have always found it hard to read and take in properly because I have been trained to read so fast that I lose all the rhythm. So when a friend recommended Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur to me, I didn’t pick it up. Then another friend recommended it, and another. Finally someone said, follow her instagram, and you’ll get a feel for her writing. And after a few days I was hooked and had picked up Milk & Honey and devoured it in an hour.
The works are very raw and emotional, and while they are mainly about love and heartbreak and dealing with abuse and trauma, I was also struck by how many of the pieces applied directly to art and artists. Rupi talks about her mother putting crayons in her hand as a young child and telling her to make sense of the world by drawing, and all the sketches that accompany the poems are her own. They often work very closely with the written word, and give you an extra layer of meaning.
I was lucky enough to attend her book launch this week for book 2, The Sun and Her Flowers, where Rupi and a group of other women performed the material live. It was incredibly moving, and I was able to talk to her editor for a while about how she found the young poet. For an unknown poet in her 20s to not only become a #1 New York Times bestseller, but also to stay on the bestseller list every week for over a year is a feat that is absolutely staggering (trust me, I work in publishing, that doesn’t happen). The editor said she had heard that there was a growing community of poets on tumblr and instagram, who considered the medium perfect for releasing their work to an audience, and the fanbase was much bigger than anyone in traditional publishing had realized. Some of the poets had self-published some collections of their work, and after a deep dive into research into the online scene, the editor felt Rupi and the self-published version of Milk & Honey was prime to be published to a wider audience. A lot of development and editing later, Andrews McMeel released the book, and ever since, it has been breaking every conceivable record for a book like it. I don’t think I have to tell you all that poetry is not a common bestseller in general, but this book, championed by her audience and the social media community, catapulted it into the notice of the wider book world.
You can read more about her journey in this article.
So I wholeheartedly recommend these 2 books (especially Milk and Honey) to all artists. Not only do they speak directly to many emotions and traumas artists feel about themselves and their own work, but the story of how Rupi Kaur was discovered should be a beacon of hope for all the artists waiting for their break. Make work from your heart, get it out there in front of people, build your authentic audience. Success will find you working.