LETTER: Why Rupi Kaur is important — it’s not what you think

A short poem by Rupi Kaur. (Photo courtesy of Piqsels)

Rupi Kaur, perhaps the most meméd poet this side of William Carlos Williams, was named writer of the decade last month by Rumaan Alam of The New Republic. This decision caused a meltdown on Twitter among those who care about such things, a group unfortunate enough to include yours truly. The debate quickly fell into ad hominem nonsense about the intentions of either side, but it essentially fell into two camps:

  1. Rupi Kaur is popular because she’s accessible. Dismissing her work as “too simplistic” is the work of gatekeepers and classists.
  2. There are libraries. Please take advantage of this fact to read something more interesting than an Instagram caption.

Now, I don’t particularly care about Kaur as a poet. I don’t much like her, but I see the appeal. Her poems are indeed accessible, and they convey raw emotion. They read (for better and for worse) like the opening lines of the song you started writing after your heart got broken in your junior year of high school. Besides, there are hundreds of artists who face much less derision for building a career off of Instagram captions (see Drake, for one).

Fortunately, my opinion here (as in most cases) simply does not matter. My life is not made worse by Ms. Kaur’s poetry. Certainly, whatever impact she has on any individual has a greater chance of being positive than otherwise. Her poems allow people to feel, to vent their emotions through minimalist, aesthetically pleasing, strawberry ice cream for the soul — or whatever your eighth-favorite flavor of ice cream is.

Have you tried eating nothing but chicken soup for a week? I have. It’s exhausting. You really gotta freeze that stuff and strategically deploy it for flu season. Anyway.

If you’ll allow me to wax philosophical for a moment, the point is that people like things because they perceive certain goods in them. If you dislike said thing, that may be because you aren’t yet attuned to the good present in the thing, (as a child might not appreciate a movie like The Godfather) or that you are desensitized to that particular good, the way that some shows of your childhood just don’t hit quite the same now that you’re an adult — cough, Dexter’s Lab, cough.

Humans crave the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. This is why we make music, write literature and spend billions of dollars producing movies. We want a small taste of those things. Rupi Kaur and others who make pop art (Marvel, Lizzo, J.K. Rowling), give many of us some of our first exposure to the True, Good, and Beautiful and in a way that is easily digested. Is it incredibly deep and thought-provoking? No, but it leaves you craving more.

Rupi Kaur — if you’ll forgive the metaphor — is the chicken nugget that trains you for steak. There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a nice steak dinner with your friends and family. But you don’t want steak at 2 a.m. when #sadboyhours hit. You want some nugs. You want Rupi Kaur.

Andrew Brandt is junior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and the persons interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.