The Appeal of Adrienne Rich

The Appeal of Adrienne Rich

The Appeal Of Adrienne Rich’s Poetry The poems of Adrienne Rich spoke to me in a powerful way. She was definitely one of the most original and thought provoking poets on my course. The poems that I have studied represent many of the new ideas that emerged during her life. Not only do I find these ideas interesting, but I believe that I have benefited directly from them. Her feminist outlook on life is evident in every one of her poems. The poems i have studied include; Living in Sin, Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, Power and The Roofwalker In Living in Sin Rich shows how relationships are approached and experienced differently by women and men.

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She focuses on a relationship where the woman and her husband are not equal; in the poem images are used to show what each member of the relationship faces. While these images are mundane and appear unimportant at first glance, they effectively show the female in an inferior position. The woman is confronted with stressful duties, seen with the images of ‘the sheets’ which need to be pulled back and to ‘let the coffee-pot boil over the stove’. The man is confronted with much less challenging and trivial duties; this is shown with the ‘dozen notes upon the keyboard’ and the relatively unimportant task of rubbing at ‘his beard’.

In contrasting what the man and woman face in their relationships through such images, Rich shows the need for equality and thus her as a feminist; while the man’s version of where they live is the image of the ‘studio’, where he can simply pursue his pleasures, in contrast for Rich the studio becomes a place of work, where such images as the dusty ‘furniture of love’ need to be taken care of. A similar image of apparent worthlessness is seen in Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, however once more it serves to show the oppression of a female.

The image of ‘The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’ which ‘Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand’ at first glance seems to provide evidence of a marriage but on closer examination shows again the need for attaining rights for women. The Uncle dominates and controls the woman, emphasized explicitly by the weight of said image which does not allow Aunt Jennifer to move away from the Uncle and live her own life; the image of the weighty wedding band is used to explictly represent the emotional and psychological hold the Uncle has over Aunt Jennifer However, the poem is not completely pessimistic.

I think it does a lot to celebrate the potential of women. Aunt Jennifer may have been repressed and timid but she produced tigers that were “proud and unafraid”. These tigers live on beyond her death. I think this poem hints at the changing position of women that we see today. A poem that deals with change and power in a slightly less dramatic way is ‘Power’ in this poem Rich also goes back through history in order to discover objects that will shed light upon the nature of power and its origins.

The speaker unearths a hundred year old bottle that remains in perfect condition. What was contained in this bottle is “an old cure for fever or a melancholy tonic for living on this earth, in the winters of their climate”. Rich cleverly constructs the poem in a way that illustrates the very act of sifting through or mining the “earth’s deposits” of history is order to better understand ourselves. On the very day that the bottle was discovered, we are told that the speaker was “reading about Marie Curie”.

Rich exposes the irony of the fact that the element that Curie was purifying was at the same time destroying her. While she worked to perfect this material it bombarded her body for years. Yet she denies to the end that it was the radium that destroyed het. She cannot bring herself to admit that the “cataracts on her eyes” or the “cracked and pus discharging skin on her fingernails” was a result of her work. She continues to deny that her wounds came from the same source as her power.

Adrienne Rich’s poem Living In Sin is a free verse poem about a woman’s fairy tale dream of marriage versus the reality of the sin of not loving each other. The subject of the poem is a woman starting a life of hope and happiness in a perfect relationship only to learn the true reality of the relationship. The first seven lines represent the woman’s dream, her perfect marriage. Beginning in the first line, and continuing throughout the poem, we are given hints that the man is an artist.

The word “studio” is referring to the house or apartment, but has clear connotations to an artist, as in an “artist’s studio. ” The meaning of the first few lines is that the woman expected the house to always be tidy after she had fallen in love, but this is like “heresy,”because it is a common belief that you cannot get everything you want out of marriage. This is hyperbole, wanting faucets that weren’t noisy and clean windows are not comparable to heresy, but Rich’s point that in marriage you cannot expect very much is made much stronger.

Lines four to seven, which use an alliterated letter “p,” give additional expectations, but are referring to what she assumes life will be like with a proficient artist. The woman I believe is having an affair with the milkman. Several references are made to him ‘like a relentless milkman up the stairs’. She sees this act as an escape from her unhappiness with everyday life but it often plays on her mind “let the coffee-pot boil over on the stove” and she feels guilty about it come night time.

The Roofwalker identifies how Adrienne Rich conveys the breakdown of a house as a symbol of security through ocean and ship imagery, and through the physical elements of the poem, including line length, meter and the use of space on the page. The paper also analyzes the speaker’s identification with the builders in the poem. The paper demonstrates how Rich draws the reader into the experience of the speaker, who is certain of doom and is completely confused on several levels. Adrienne Rich’s poetry had a profound effect on me.

It opened my eyes to the feminist society of today and the obviously patriarchal one of the mid to late 20th century. It is impossible not to appreciate the poetry of Adrienne Rich, her poetry is unique, with its variance of register and theme fused with a seriousness and descriptive power which inhabits her poetry. All these qualities combine to make each poem, and her poetry unique for every reader. This quality makes it impossible not to appreciate the poetry of Adrienne Rich.


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