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Adrienne Riche by Katie Gerten

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 5 months ago

Adrienne RichAdrienne Rich

(photo from poets.org)

                                                                    Born: May 16, 1929


          About Adrienne


     Adrienne was born May 16, 1929. She grew up in Baltimore and later

graduated from Radcliffe College. She was selected for the Yale Series of

Younger Poets prize in 1951, at the age of twenty-two.

     After divorcing husband of seventeen years, Alfred Conrad, Adrienne went

on to win many more awards for her poetry as well as other publications.

     Sometimes her work was considered controversial because she wrote about social

roles of women as well as racism and the Vietnam War. She began writing in what was

called free verse. 

     Adrienne was twenty years old during the feminist movement. She was also a

grown woman during the civil rights movement and Vietnam War. This is when she

created a book of poems that were usually angry but also explanatory. The successes

of this collection lead to an award that Adrienne accepted for herself as well as

all women.

     Ms. Rich has another nine collections published. She has received numerous

awards over the years for her work. But, Adrienne has also denied an award in

the past because she didn’t believe in the basis upon which it was presented.



          Poetry By Adrienne 


Diving into the Wreck



First having read the book of myths,

and loaded the camera,

and checked the edge of the knife-blade,

I put on

the body-armor of black rubber

the absurd flippers

the grave and awkward mask.

I am having to do this

not like Cousteau with his

assiduous team

aboard the sun-flooded schooner

but here alone.


There is a ladder.

The ladder is always there

hanging innocently

close to the side of the schooner.

We know what it is for,

we who have used it.


it is a piece of maritime floss

some sundry equipment.


I go down.

Rung after rung and still

the oxygen immerses me

the blue light

the clear atoms

of our human air.

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

will begin.


First the air is blue and then

it is bluer and then green and then

black I am blacking out and yet

my mask is powerful

it pumps my blood with power

the sea is another story

the sea is not a question of power

I have to learn alone

to turn my body without force

In the deep element.


And now: it is easy to forget

what I came for

among so many who have always

lived here

swaying their crenellated fans

between the reefs

and besides

you breathe differently down here.


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 would 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

the drowned face always staring

toward the sun

the evidence of damage

worn by salt and away into this threadbare beauty

the ribs of disaster

curving their assertion

among the tentative haunters.


This is the place.

And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair

streams black, the merman in his armored body.

We circle silently

about the wreck

we dive into the hold.

I am she: I am he


whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes

whose breasts still bear the stress

whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies

obscurely inside barrels

half-wedged and left to rot

we are the half-destroyed instruments

that once held to a course

the water-eaten log

the fouled compass


We are, I am, you are

by cowardice or courage

the one who find our way

back to this scene

carrying a knife, a camera

a book of myths

in which

our names do not appear.




     In this poem the speaker tells a detailed story of a journey into the deep

sea. There are myths about a wreck and the narrator chooses to see for

herself instead of believing the stories. The intense details in the

beginning help to build up the ending where she finds the wreck and relates

it to people.

     The speaker isn’t really clear in this poem. But, whoever is telling the

story seems to feel strongly about the meaning of the wreck. They take a

lot of time to go into the details of actually getting into the water.

     There is more than one setting in this poem. The first seems to be on some

sort of boat or platform that is used to lower a person into the water.

     Next the speaker is going down a ladder and then finally reaches the water.

The poem ends as the diver uncovers the wreck.

     An emotion evinced by this poem is confusion. The meaning of the poem is

unclear. It is hard to decipher because of the length of the poem. It seems

that the wreck is representing something else in life that there are often

myths about. Knowing the history of Adrienne Rich, one may think that the

wreck has to do with freedom or self-sufficiency among women.

     Powerful images include those of the journey down the ladder “rung after

rung” the speaker goes down into the water. Also, when the description of

changing colors is talked about, puts a vivid picture in the heads of


     A surprising element of this poem is the underlying meaning. When other

analyses of this poem are read, it is easier to understand what Adrienne

Rich may be writing about. The poem is great with detail and really allows

a reader to put themselves in the shoes of the person diving into the




Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers



Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen,

Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.

They do not fear the men beneath the tree;

They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.


Aunt Jennifer’s fingers fluttering through her wool

Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.

The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band

Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand.


When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie

Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.

The tigers in the panel that she mad

Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.




     Described in this poem is the experience that a married woman might

experience. Aunt Jennifer is creating a screen with tigers on it. The

tigers may represent an independent animal that Aunt Jennifer wishes to be.

They are a bright topaz color instead of just a usual or normal green

color. The tigers are free and don’t fear men, as Aunt Jennifer wishes she

could do. The tigers here are also described to be chivalric, or courteous

and considerate. This may be what she wishes of her husband. They weight of

her wedding band is holding her back in the making of this screen. And,

even when Aunt Jennifer dies she will still wear the ring which brings

along the hardships of this marriage. But, the tigers will still be free to

do as they want.

     The speaker in this poem seems to be a family member of Aunt Jennifer; a

niece or a nephew because they refer to them as “aunt” and “uncle”. The

narrator doesn’t express strong feelings about the situation. They just

tell the story of what is happening, or what they have heard, possibly from

Aunt Jennifer themselves.

     The setting is wherever Aunt Jennifer is creating the screen work; most

likely in a home setting.

     The emotions evinced from this poem are strong. Feelings of self

sufficiency and the desire to be free come about. Aunt Jennifer doesn’t

seem to be happy because of her marriage. A reader may too think negatively

about the effects of marriage.

     A powerful image in this poem is in line seven. “The massive weight of

Uncle’s wedding band”. This makes you think that a huge ring is holding her

down. When really, the ring itself may not even by that large but, the

commitments involved and the things a person must give up once in a

relationship are what is weighing Aunt Jennifer down.

     The most pleasing part of this poem is the idea that Aunt Jennifer chooses

crafts to express her feelings of inequality. She may not be able to talk

about them, but she finds a way to depict them in a very creative way using

tigers and screen work.















The information on this page was collected from poets.org and americanpoems.com



Comments (9)

Anonymous said

at 9:34 am on May 10, 2007

I think your analysis of Aunt Jennifer's Tigers seems right on with what I was thinking. I didn't really understand what she was doing (the screen). Your explination helps.

Anonymous said

at 9:44 am on May 10, 2007

First of all, I really liked how you layed out your web page! The poem "Diving into the Wreck" was such a long poem, but you did a great job at giving your interpretation of it! I'd have to agree with you when you say the wreck maybe has something to do with freedom or self-sufficiency among women because of her history. But great job overall! -Malea Proeschel

Anonymous said

at 9:45 am on May 10, 2007

So much depth its blowing my mind!!!!! Its a deep sea explosion. The explinations really do help, as well as knowing what time period she was creating it.

Anonymous said

at 9:46 am on May 10, 2007

first one was a long poem, at first, it was confusing- but i could felt little of emotions with it until after i read your explaination, i understood much better and felt. good job. -Katy kelley

Anonymous said

at 9:47 am on May 10, 2007

You had great background information that related well to the poem. Your explanation of "Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers" was very helpful because I found it a little confusing when first reading it. When I first read the line about the huge ring on her finger, I at first thought it was just a big ring, but your explanation of it being huge in relation to holding her down really helped me to get an understanding of what the poet was trying to get across.
-Krystlynn Cumiskey

Anonymous said

at 9:50 am on May 10, 2007

I like how you took the tigers in the poem not to be literal ones, but a symbol of what the character desired to be. Nice job

Anonymous said

at 9:52 am on May 10, 2007

I really like how you designed your page, it looks so organized and it was easy to read! A few more pictures would have been nice, just to give an idea of the poems, but i still thought it looked really good!
Diving into the wreck was a really long poem, so i was expecting a super long explination, but it was the perfect length. It got to the point and said everything it needed to without loosing my attention.
Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers looked like it would be hard to summarize because, i think, it's on a topic that people have a lot of different feelings on. Just for that reason, i would have put maybe another possible meaning for the poem, or explained some of the lines a little more in depth. However, it was still really good.
Great job!

Anonymous said

at 9:59 am on May 10, 2007

Great detail in the explination of both poems. Also nice information on Adrienne Riche it gave a good understanding ofher life. I liked that you added links to learn more about her and her poems. Great job!

Anonymous said

at 10:02 am on May 10, 2007

i like your poem at first it was not easy to follow. but the poem seems to be well organized and the summary follows up with the poem given.

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