I first read Adrienne Rich in college; my well-worn copy of The Fact of a Doorframe has many scraps of paper and folded-over pages marking favorite poems.
If you’re not familiar with Adrienne Rich or her writing, the New Yorker has a nice, short biography and links to seven of her poems that they published in the 1950’s. For some of her more contemporary poems, The Nation also has a nice biography with 5 poems that span the 60’s to the present.
For me, the poem I most associate with Adrienne Rich is Diving Into the Wreck. When I first read it in college I had never been diving or snorkeling so the world she described seemed as far away as the moon. A couple of years ago I went to the Great Barrier Reef. As I crawled, awkwardly, down the ladder and into the ocean, the words of her poem came to my mind:
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
My favorite part of the poem is:
I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
Whenever I travel or look at a famous painting or sculpture, I think of those last three lines. I think about seeing what is in front of me instead of seeing the myth of what is in front of me.
To see the rest of Diving Into the Wreck, please go to Southern Cross Review. To see more poems, head over to My Juicy Little Universe where Heidi is hosting Poetry Friday.
And please don’t forget to cheer and vote for the Poetry March Madness Final Four over at Think Kid, Think! when the poems get uploaded TOMORROW!
Thank you for the many things Adrienne Rich. I don’t know her well, but will look up the article, Katya. I like those last words too, to not let oneself be distracted by the broader story, to be in the moment with that being observed. Thanks for the thoughts!
I think as writers we have a tendency to live by mythologizing or analyzing or ‘writing’ the moment instead of actually living it. I find myself writing up moments in my head instead of enjoying them.
Hi Katya, Adrienne Rich is a favorite, and I do feel sad about her passing away. I recalled including a few of her poems in my test papers (for my undergraduate students) as a kind of bonus, with the intention of making them think or inspiring them, can’t really remember what was going through in my mind then. But, yeah, there was one point when I just fell in love with her poems.
I agree — there are definitely poets that I have loved more or related to more at various times in my life. I associate Adrienne Rich with grad school. :-)