This collection of poems is quite similar in format and subject to Kaur’s more recent work “The Sun and Her Flowers” (which I reviewed recently.) This book also gathers short free-verse poetry (with the occasional prose poem) together with line-drawn artworks by the author. The subject matter includes: sexual abuse, parental relationships, love relationships, and self-image problems. My likes and dislikes for this collection are much the same as they were for the more recent work, as the two books feel like volumes in the same work.
The book is divided into four parts: “the hurting,” “the loving,” “the breaking,” and “the healing.” One will notice the roller-coaster effect implicit in that organization—like alternately drowning and bobbing up for air.
Kaur is bold in her poetry. It’s daring in its confessional nature and courageous in her willingness to be so intensely feeling in a society that gets cynical of emotionality fairly quickly. (It almost feels like a JP Sears caricature of itself sometimes–particularly it the lulls of melancholy.) It also has the condensed effect that comes from a sparing approach. Both the art and verse take a minimalist approach, avoiding getting lost in complexity of form and presentation, and they are all the better for it. This simplicity doesn’t mean that Kaur doesn’t offer some clever turns of phrase. On the contrary, it gives it all the more punch. The words and drawings frequently form a synergy.
Both the poet’s courage and her sparse and simple cleverness overwhelm the collection’s downsides. Said weaknesses include frequent bumper-sticker truisms that feel a bit preachy and / or banal. As I hinted, sometimes the book feels a little bit like the “No, I just have a lot of feelings” girl from the movie “Mean Girls.”
I enjoyed this collection for its poetry, its art, and—perhaps most interestingly—the interplay between the two. I’d highly recommend it.