Poems by Adrienne Rich

Conflict can be internal or external, as exemplified in “Diving into the Wreck” and “Storm Warnings”. Conflict is the common theme between these two poems. Both of these poems were written by Adrienne Rich. Rich was an American poet and she was also a feminist. She wrote “Diving into the Wreck” during time period where women were still viewed as house wives. Even though some women had jobs, they were not giving the same benefits as male coworkers. The external conflict is between the women and the male-dominated business world. The internal conflict is between the women and their selves.

First they have to decide if they want to go against the male-dominated business world. Then the external conflict would be them going after the male-dominated business world. Rich’s “Storm Warnings” is more about the internal conflict. The speaker throughout the poem talks about a storm, but the speaker is really talking about the emotional and internal conflict with itself. Like the weather, pain and sadness you feel inside can be unpredictable. Rich develops the theme of conflict in these two poems, through the use of sensory detail, symbolism, and figurative language.

To being with, symbolism is used to represent things with symbols. Rich uses these symbols during the conflict. In the poem “Diving into the Wreck”, a book of myths is mention in the first line “First having read the book of myths,” (Rich 1). This talks about the traditional values that men should be in the professional world and women should be house wives. The speaker disagrees with this. Then it goes on to “I put on the body-armor of black rubber” (Rich 5). This could be a suit; she would have to put on to be taken as serious as a man would.

After that she starts talking about this ladder, “There is a ladder / The ladder is always there / hanging innocently” (Rich 13-15). It represents the corporate ladder that women tried to climb in the 1970’s “We know what it is for, / we who have used it” (Rich 17-18). By this she is talking about the women that choose not to climb the ladder, which is hurting the ones who are. In the poem “Storm Warnings”, the speaker is comparing the real storm to the internal storm or conflict starting in herself “What winds are walking overhead, what zone / Of grey unrest is moving across the land,” (Rich 3-4).

She goes on to say “And the weather in the heart alike come on / Regardless of prediction” (Rich 13-14). This means that, just like the weather, feeling can be unpredictable. Anything can trigger feeling or unwanted emotions at anytime. In the third stanza, it talks about how we cannot alter what is coming even if we know its coming. The last stanza suggests that she has gone through this before “This is our sole defense against the season; / These are the things we have learned to do” (Rich 26-27). Rich’s symbolize helps the reader understand what is going on much easier.

In these two poems, Rich uses sensory detail to show both the internal and external conflict. Sensory detail is the 5 senses; sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. “Diving into the Wreck”, the second stanza says “abroad the sun-flooded schooner / but here alone”. She is alone in a sense that, she is doing it for herself. By the time you get to the seventh stanza, “the evidence of damage / worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty” (Rich 66-67). By now she’s gotten her way into the male-dominated corporate world. You can see what the stress has done to her, she doesn’t look as good as she used to.

Then in the next stanza it says “we dive into the hold / I am she: I am he” (Rich 77). This is where she has lost and done away with all her femininity, and there is not much of a difference between her and a man. The last stanza in the poem is probably the easiest to understand, “back to the scene / carrying a knife, a camera / a book of myths / in which / our names do not appear. ” (Rich 100-104). Even though she has worked hard and got high on the ladder of the corporate world like some women before her, their accomplishments are still not recorded.

In the second poem, “Storm Warnings” in the first stanza states “Of grey unrest is moving across the land,” (Rich 4). You can interpret this as storm clouds, but its showing the mental unrest in the speaker. The speaker goes on to say “I draw the curtains as the sky goes black” (Rich 22). This shows how the speaker not only deals with the real storm, but with the eternal one that is coming. “The insistent whine / of weather through the unsealed aperture” (Rich 24) could be talking about the internal conflict she is trying to keep inside.

These sensory details that Rich uses help the reader feel the emotions build up, especially in “Storm Warnings” where it build up the storm. As a final point, you cannot have a poem without figurative language. Figurative language is everything from alliterations to similes. In “Diving into the Wreck” imagery is used “not like Cousteau with his / assiduous team” (Rich 9-10). She didn’t use hard working or steady, she used the word assiduous. That means constant or unremitting. The second stanza gives the ladder human qualities “The ladder is always there hanging innocently” (Rich 13-14) which is personification.

In the third stanza she says “I crawl like an insect down the ladder” (Rich 30) which is comparing using like or as, so it is a simile. Stanza eight has a metaphor in it “the mermaid whose dark hair / streams black” (Rich 72-73) which is comparing the color of the mermaid’s hair with using like or as. Then in “Storm Warnings” imagery is used, showing how easy glass is to break just like humans. Personification is given to the wind as walking “What winds are walking overhead, what zone” (Rich 3). After that a metaphor is used “And the weather in the heart alike” (Rich 13) comparing that to her emotions.

Rich’s use of the figurative language helps bring out more emotions in these poems. Altogether, Adrienne Rich was a very well know poet and feminist during this time. Her poems, “Diving into the Wreck” and “Storm Warnings”, both have a common theme of conflict. “Diving into the Wreck” was more of both internal and external, and “Storm Warnings” was more just internal. The first one dealt with a woman trying to build herself up in a male-dominated business world. She had conflict with both the business world and herself.

She built herself up but never got the respect she deserved. Then in the second poem, the speaker describes a storm coming but she’s really describing her unpredictable emotions and internal conflict with herself. Even though it’s unpredictable, she shows how she gets herself ready for it. Not only did Rich bring out the deep emotions in the poems, but she also brought them out in the reader. You can feel the tension build in both of the poems. Rich did an outstanding job using sensory detail, symbolism, and figurative language to describe these poems.

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