Sudden Spoon

Collaborative Close Readings

“Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich

Poem and audio recording (by Anne Waldman): http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15228

Audio recording by me (because, although I love Anne  Waldman, her reading is a bit rushed and dramatic for me): http://vocaroo.com/i/s1bCPanl0Tbk

Honestly, I’m not sure where to start with this poem.  A long time favorite, I guess what I love best about it is its openness.  Rich uses such concrete imagery in her portrayal of the gathering of supplies, putting on the diving suit and equipment and descending to explore the wreck, but the metaphoric potential is varied.  As I’ve been exploring the poem more deeply over the last couple of days, I’ve done a literal reading, a personal reading, a feminist reading, and a meta-poetical reading (my favorite…thanks, Al!).

With her shifting of the “I” and her focus on words and story, what’s your take on the poem?

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10 comments on ““Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich

  1. Elizabeth Evans
    December 5, 2012

    This poem is such a great choice… very open but with so much substance. I printed a copy for myself and I’m looking forward to digging into… err, descending into it.

  2. peculiaritiesandreticences
    December 5, 2012

    I’m in. I’ll give it a close read/listen tomorrow.

  3. karrenalenier
    December 5, 2012

    I am stuck by the ironic groundedness of this poem. The environment of the narrative lends itself hugely to myth & fantastic storytelling all of which the poet acknowledges but she sticks to the thing itself without the lure of distracting though tempting embellishment.

  4. karrenalenier
    December 5, 2012

    I am struck by the ironic groundedness of the poem. The environment of this poem lends itself to myth & fantastic narrative all of which the poet acknowledges but she sticks to the thing itself–the wrecked ship not the story of how the ship came to be wrecked. This is a meditation on process. The actions necessary to get in over your head to live to see but also to write.

    • figuringfifty
      December 5, 2012

      Yes! The thing and not the story of the thing. She has to be in it.

  5. smhamon
    December 5, 2012

    This is a very interesting poem! I’m going to ramble on a bit and attempt a meta-poetic reading. The speaker is grappling with the challenge of immersing herself in the ocean which may variously represent the “Creative Process,” “Language,” “Poetry” or, in fact, the entire experience of Life. The “book of myths” is the education or academic world which she carries with her as baggage but which does not prepare her for this journey. She feels awkward, inept, not at all prepared; she has no teacher; she is alone; she must learn on her own. “The sea is another story”–in this element there are new and strange life forms. She feels out of place among the “natural” beings who live here; that is, those beings/people who seem to go about their business of living rather blithely without effort. She struggles with self-doubt and must keep questioning her purposes. Am I an artist? Do I have anything to say… anything worth saying? I have to force myself to focus on the reality before me; to pay attention to details: “the “threadbare beauty,” “the ribs of the disaster.” I am both “mermaid” and “merman.” Even gender stereotypes do not help. “We”–that is, all writers, all poets, all people–must find our way “by cowardice or courage” through this strange landscape, carrying that baggage–the “book of myths”–in which our names do not appear because our unique vision and experience were never described in that book. We must make our own myth as we probe the darkness.

    • paige
      December 8, 2012

      I really like your reading. The focus on the solitariness of the experience is so important.

    • Elizabeth Evans
      December 10, 2012

      I like your reading too, particularly the metapoetic aspect, which I did not delve into deeply.

  6. lowellmurphree
    December 10, 2012

    I am reading this poem again for the first time in years. I think I first bought the book of poems from which this comes, The Dream of a Common Language about 1980. I remember the little bookstore on Bainbridge Island, Washington. With the other poems there, I take this metaphor to be that of examining the wreck of a marriage, though it could be any relationship. It seem, as you say, more uneven than it did in earlier readings. The image of the knife as weapon to be used against other or self, and also as the instrument that frees from bondage is more powerful for me at this reading. I take away from the poem the same wounds that made the full book of poems a slow read for me decades ago. These are waters that yield more toxin than clarity.

    • Elizabeth Evans
      December 10, 2012

      Lowell, I also read this poem, from a big collection of her work, at about that time, for me about 1978-1979. Her work spoke very powerfully to me then, though I couldn’t articulate why as well as I can after ModPo. I always saw the knife more as tool than weapon. Scuba divers carry a knife to free themselves from entanglement. I lived in San Diego then, and there would be an occasional news story about a diver who had died tangled in kelp.

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This entry was posted on December 4, 2012 by in Poem of the Week, Week 2 and tagged , , .
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