Kaur’s poems are incredibly popular with contemporary readers. Most are quite short, as ‘legacy’ is, and many are accompanied by illustrations. In this case, Kaur included a line drawing of a mountain landscape with a woman standing on top, looking into the distance with this poem.
‘Legacy’ by Rupi Kaur is a short poem about a woman’s success in the world and how the world has changed.[/wps_alert]
The speaker acknowledges the successes she has had and the sacrifices that other women have made to get where she is. She wants to make sure that her career is used for the betterment of other women too. That’s the best way to pay tribute to what others have sacrificed.
You can read the full poem here.
In the first lines of ‘Legacy,’ the speaker begins by noting that she, the poet herself, is standing on the sacrifices of “a million women before” her. This is a metaphor that shows the reader that she is aware that living in the contemporary world is far easier for women (especially when they want to have a successful career) than it was in the past. Kaur is a writer and artist, a career that was not available for women for a very long time. S
he looks back on the past, to those who were mistreated for their most basic interests and those who fought for equal rights for all women.
She’s “thinking,” the fourth line notes. This is an example of enjambment. The line, like the others in the poem, cuts off before its conclusion. This forces the reader to jump down to the next line to find out what Kaur is going to say.
what can i do
can see farther
The second half of the poem is traditionally written in italics to symbolize the poet’s thoughts. The fourth line already acknowledged that she is “thinking” something. What she’s thinking is in lines five through eight. She is considering what she can do, as a successful woman, to “make this mountain taller” and allow other women to reach the top and “see farther” than she can now.
What can she do, the poet wonders, to make the women who come after her even more successful. This is the only way, the poem alludes, that one can thank those who have done the same for them.
Structure and Form
‘Legacy’ by Rupi Kaur is an eight-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines are short, sometimes only one or two words long, and are written in free verse. This means that they do not conform to a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. This is common in Kaur’s poetry.
It should also be noted that this poem, like others, was accompanied by a line drawing. It can be seen at the link above, along with the full text of the poem.
Throughout ‘Legacy,’ Kaur makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. For example, “what can i do / to make this mountain taller.”
- Metaphor: the phrase “what can i do / to make this mountain taller” is also an example of a metaphor. The poet is comparing women’s success, and their ability to succeed, to a mountain one can stand on top of. The taller it is, the farther one can see into the distance and the more powerful and successful they’ll become.
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound a the beginning of multiple words. For example, “stand” and “sacrifices” in the first two lines.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before the natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two as well as lines four and five.
The themes in this poem are women’s rights and women’s lives. The future and the past are also acknowledged. The speaker is looking towards the future, working off an idea of what the past held for women, and trying to make the path smoother for those who follow her.
The purpose is to acknowledge the sacrifice and lives of women who came before the poet and remind others that helping those who follow is incredibly important.
The tone is passionate and direct. The speaker knows exactly what they want to say and clarifies the lines that allow for little misinterpretation. Readers should walk away asking themselves the same question.
The speaker is the poet herself. She’s considering her position in the long history of women’s oppression and accomplishment and seeking out a way to make the future better for the women who follow, based on her own successes.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Legacy’ should also consider reading some of Rupi Kaur’s other poems. For example:
- ‘Women’ by Alice Walker – a short poem praising previous generations of African American women who fought for the education of young girls.
- ‘The Rights of Women’ by Anna Lætitia Barbauld – a proto-feminist poem that intones the power that a woman might have if she resists social law and rises up to take control over the world.
- ‘The Women in Black’ by Hala al-Dosari – a powerful poem about the equal rights movement in Saudi Arabia.