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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Poem of the Week: "Women" by Adrienne Rich



"Women" By Adrienne Rich

My three sisters are sitting
on rocks of black obsidian.
For the first time, in this light, I can see who they are.

My first sister is sewing her costume for the procession.
She is going as the Transparent lady
and all her nerves will be visible.

My second sister is also sewing,
at the seam over her heart which has never healed entirely,
At last, she hopes, this tightness in her chest will ease.

My third sister is gazing
at a dark-red crust spreading westward far out on the sea.
Her stockings are torn but she is beautiful.


I had a test today in Modern Poetry and what I love about this poem is how broken it shows women. It shows what men have done to women and it causes men to sympathize and then look at themselves in the "black obsidian." It's subtle yet extremely critical. However, it isn't hopeless, the last line ends on a sense of empowerment and resolution.

Link:
Adrienne Rich on Wikipedia

17 comments:

remorsful-devil said...

Wouldn't it be nice if you had said anything about this poem besides snide remarks about men being the cause of all women's pain and suffering. Seriously, develop some thought and then tote your bullshit like a cross.
While this is certainly a poem about women being "broken," it would be more accurate to place blame on society, hence the "Transparent Lady" going to the "procession," not the men's locker room.

Anonymous said...

Well remorsful I don't think it's right for you to jump all over someone for stating thier interpretations of a poem. Reader response is a largely important part of poetry. Sure, they might not have looked at the poem in as much depth as you did, but we all see what we see in poetry we are all entitled to our own opinions. Part of the beauty in poetry is the connections it helps us build with others through seeing other points of view.

Anonymous said...

Remorsful, considering most of Rich's work is about feminism and woman's role i think the poem might have a little something to do with men and their affect on women in those days. However, we all have different opinions and you may want to think about that the next time you belittle someone over their own personal opinion.

Anonymous said...

I somewhat agree with remorsful, but would have preferred a more tactful wording. Too often, people assume that feminism means women bewailing what men have done to them. I think this poem, though it depicts (in a couple of instances, possibly) women who may have had difficult lives, is not about men at all. Suggesting so is missing the point of the poem. It's called "Women," as a matter of fact. Feminism is not generally about what men have done to women but about who women are, what they can accomplish, mistakes they may have made, heroic deeds they have performed, etc., in other words, all the things that the old, patriarchal literatures have told us about men's lives, (and some others that don't apply to men).

Anonymous said...

Personally, I believe in the most basic definition of feminism: "feminism is the radical notion that women are people." It's about equality, not about hating men.

Yet what irritates me, "Remorseful," is when people get their hackles up at the first sign of challenge to patriarchy and want to pretend that you can't blame men for anything, and they choose to blame this vague figure "society," so that individual men don't have to feel any sort of responsibility. Well, who's been running that vague body, "society," for most of history? Men. There's no way around that answer.

I don't blame individual men living today for the crimes of the past, just like I don't blame individual white people living today for slavery. However, when someone occupies a culturally-privileged position (like men or white people do), they have no right to react defensively when someone points out oppression that did in fact happen at the hands of one particular group of people throughout history. It makes it seem like you are belittling suffering that in fact has happened, or saying that those who occupy a culturally-disadvantaged position should shut up, which is, in fact, oppression of another kind.

Anonymous said...

i'm totally with "anonymous #1" on this one. i'd tell my students the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with remorsful (it was more likely all of society), but the wording was a little harsh. I get sick of people always assuming that all of women's problems are men's fault. I admit that some of women's problems can be caused by men... However, looking at it from the other view point, some of men's problems are caused by women... Open your minds people.

Anonymous said...

what is the "dark-red crust" she is referring to? is it related to the Triangle Shirt Waist factory fire?

Anonymous said...

I've always interpreted this poem as three possible ways lesbian women embrace (or have not embraced) their sexual orientation. The 'transparent lady' masks her identity which can cause undue stress, 'sewing the seem over her heart' speaks to fear of intimacy and resulting isolation and loneliness, and then there is the erotic sensibility of the 'third sister gazing..' and the wildness of her abandon. This is art people. It's whatever we want it to be.

Anonymous said...

Honestly this is one of my favorite poems by Adrienne Rich. When I read this poem I also see broken women; women who perhaps are making there way to a funeral ("a procession") and reflecting on their lives. Each has faced difficult obstacles but the narrator has a certain appreciation for her sisters and for their courage. Whether a man is the cause for their suffering is up for debate but the one thing that is certain is that they do suffer and fight.

BOX.thinking said...

An interesting finding I came across was the properties of a black obsidian crystal, which gives great meaning to the "black obsidian" the women are described to be sitting on that allows them to be seen in a different light. Black obsidian is a protector crystal, it absorbs and dissolves anger, fear, and criticism. It is also said to "mirror one's soul." It is truth enhancing and is used in order to see one's true self.

This gave a whole new meaning to the poem for me. However, I am still stuck on the metaphor she is trying to display by the 'dark-red crust spreading westward far out on the sea' ..... I cannot come to terms that it solely means a wound. Due to it being crust like and not a liquid, & that the motion of it moving westward I feel is significant. It may just be abuse, however, I myself am not content with that answer.

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