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POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary, Introduction , Analysis

POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary, Introduction , Analysis

POWER by Adrienne Rich 

 

An Introduction to Adrienne Rich:

[POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary, Introduction , Analysis]

Adrienne Rich, in full Adrienne Cecile Rich, (born May 16, 1929, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. – died March 27, 2012, Santa Cruz, California), American poet, scholar, teacher, and critic whose many volumes of poetry trace a stylistic transformation from formal, well-crafted but imitative poetry to a more personal and powerful style.

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Throughout the 1960s and ’70s Rich’s increasing commitment to the women’s movement and to a feminist and, after openly acknowledging her homosexuality, lesbian aesthetic politicized much of her poetry. Leaflets: Poems 1965–1968 (1969) includes a number of translations of poetry from other languages as well as a series of poems echoing the Middle Eastern ghazal genre. Such collections as Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 (1973; National Book Award) and The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974–1977 (1978) express anger at the societal conception of womanhood and further articulate Rich’s lesbian identity. Her later volumes A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far: Poems 1978–1981 (1981), An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988–1991 (1991), and Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991–1995 (1995) pay tribute to early feminists and admonish the reader to recall the lessons of history, often through the use of different voices.

In such later collections as Midnight Salvage: Poems 1995–1998 (1999), Fox: Poems 1998–2000 (2001), and The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000–2004 (2004), Rich turned her gaze to social problems as diverse as cell phone usage and the Iraq War, using forms more elliptical and fragmented than those present in her earlier work. The poems in Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth (2007) and in Tonight No Poetry Will Serve (2011) continue to experiment with form and include more reflective passages on Rich’s sharp observations on the cultural climate of the day. Later Poems: Selected and New, 1971–2012 (2012) is a posthumous sampling of her oeuvre that includes 10 previously unpublished poems. Collected Poems: 1950–2012 (2016) contains her entire oeuvre.

An Introduction to Power.

a Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) wrote “Power” in 1974, in the middle of the second-wave feminist movement. Rich was a poet, a teacher, a critic, a scholar, and an activist for women’s and LGBT rights. She made politics part of her creative work. The opening poem in The Dream of a Common Language describes a similar revising of myth–again the hero is a woman and the treasure is not simply scientific knowledge, but knowledge of self as the poet describes an attempt to reach into the earth for the sources, the origins of woman’s distinctive power.

The Paraphrase of Power:

 

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth, one bottle amber perfect, a hundred-year-old, a cure for fever or melancholy a tonic for living earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie. She must have known that she suffered from radiation sickness, as her body battered for years by the element she had purified (radio active elements). It seems she denied to the end the source of the cataracts on her eyes, the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a She died a famous woman denying her wounds, denying her wounds came from the same source as her power, pencil .

 A Summary of Power:

The poem is an ode to the bravery and strong heart of Marie Curie whose great efforts in the field of radioactive research has changed our lives today , Adrienne Rich as a radical feminist wished to devote this poem to Marie Curie for her undying efforts in creating a better life for the generations ahead of her Marie Curie suffered to a great extent from the exposure to chemicals that we expelled in her experiments, but never was it an obstacle between her work and her passion. Her love for her work and the extent of her devotion to it, which was in fact the power to her existence is what Adrienne talks about in this poem.

A Critical Analysis of Power:

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) wrote “Power” in 1974, in the middle of the second-wave feminist movement. Rich was a poet, a teacher, a critic, a scholar, and an activist for women’s and LGBT rights. She made politics part of her creative work.

Rich’s poem “Power” is all about the famous scientist Marie Curie (born 1867). She was a two-time Nobel Prize winner and discoverer of radium, radioactivity, and other scientific discoveries. She won Nobel Prizes in both chemistry and physics, making her the only person ever to win Nobels in two different fields, and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Tragically, Marie Curie died in 1934 from aplastic anemia, caused by her years-long exposure to radiation. Her life’s works essentially killed her.

When Adrienne Rich wrote her landmark poem “Power” in 1974, the concept of Women’s History, the study of women’s historically marginalized contributions to society and the experience of women living under patriarchy, was still taking form during the second wave of feminism. “Power” performs much of the work that the study of Women’s History has done in the past four decades. Rich does not just call attention to Marie Curie’s contributions to science, but she also examines the social context of her work in the male dominated world of scientific inquiry at the turn of the century and how her status as a woman and her research on radioactivity created a mutually informing, and ultimately fatal relationship. Her research on radioactivity granted Curie the worldwide fame and prestige in the academy that few women had ever enjoyed- yet as radioactivity empowered her social being, it weakened her physical being as it ate away at her body and slowly consumed her.

The first section, “Power,” is about the sources and frustrations of women’s power. As she has often done before, Rich uses the life of a dead woman (Marie Curie, Elvira Shatayev) as a moral exemplum of woman under patriarchy, fragmented and cut off from the sources of her own power yet grasping towards it. Thus, Marie Curie “died a famous woman denying / her wounds / denying / her wounds came from the same source as her power.”

Adrienne Rich’s poem “Power,” which provides a moving and sympathetic account of Marie Curie, is significant not only for its overt portrait of a famous female scientist, but also for its implicit criticism of male power misused. The poem contrasts two lives one, a dedicated scientist who sacrifices self for the world, the other, an implicit, nondescript male “doctor” who exploits others for personal gain.

Rich frames her poem as an excavation of that which is “Living in the earthdeposits of our history”. This sets us up for a reconciliation of two aspects of history, its socially constructed aspect built on master narratives and received knowledges and its material aspect composed of the actual artifacts left behind and the impact it had in shaping the present. Both aspects mutually inform each other to create a palimpsest of discourse and knowledges, both conceptual and as material as the very ground in which we bury the past and build the future upon.

 In the first full stanza, Rich burrows into a material engagement with the historical palimpsest: “Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth/ one bottle amber perfect a hundredyearold/ cure for fever or melancholy a tonic/ for living on this earth in the winters of this climate”. This bottle found in the ground would seem neutral enough just as a mere object , yet when placed in its historical context, it becomes a clue toward illuminating the livedexperience of women a century in the past.

In this context, the radioactive properties of Marie Curie’s lab book become sadly ironic. Shifting from the amber bottle to the biography of Marie Curie, Rich’s poem at first gives us the illusion of a stark contrast between a scene of women’s oppression at the hands of science and a scene of a woman empowered by science whose work would revolutionize the practice of medicine. Yet, as she further investigates Curie, we see that even in the hands of a genius, power (both in the social sense and in the scientific sense of the term) is a complicated relationship between forces without any possible mastery. Rich writes: She must have known she suffered from radiation sickness/her body bombarded for years by the element/ she had purified/ It seems she denied to the end/ the source of the cataracts on her eyes/ the cracked and suppurating skin of her fingerends/ till she could no longer hold a testtube or a pencil”.

This intellectual power to discover physical power made her a woman of nearly unparalleled fame and power, yet as Foucault reminds us in philosophy and Rich reminds us in poetics, power is not something one can possess, but it is instead a relationship between entities that determines knowledge, discourse, and constitutes our identities and social realities. We can direct and influence power, but we cannot control it. Curie discovered the effects of radioactivity and helped to channel its use toward productive means, but she herself could not control it or keep it from infecting her. For Rich, these relationships of power are inherent in patriarchy. Patriarchy builds civilization, but its cost has been the subjugation of billions of gender, racial, class, and sexual minorities, generation after generation.

Rich is not interested in Marie Curie’s scientific discovery that will ensure her continued fame beyond her death. Instead she is trying to understand the nature of power, specifically womanly power.

Ultimately, we, like Curie at the end of the poem are left denying our wounds, denying our wounds came from the same source as our power. We bear the scars of civilization’s oppressive foundation, but we powder over them with talk of democracy, humanitarianism, and spirituality preferring to dwell on the powers it has given us instead of those that have been taken away. Yet, Rich knew that these wounds came from the same source as one’s power and by speaking back to these institutions, like the state and patriarchy that grant us freedoms on paper but endeavor to restrain us in practice, Rich articulated the innerworkings of power and revealed that power relations exercised by social institutions.

This poem is the example of Rich’s perception of the differences between male opportunism and female devotion to work.Rich’s poem revisits history to reconstruct two opposing views of power, one illegitimate and selfcentered, the other legitimate because selfless.

The poem begins with the narrative of the great value that “one bottle amber” brings to cure fever or even a cold. There is also an emphasis on how it’s a cure that lies within the “earth-deposit of our history”. The subjectivity of the poem slowly changes to Marie Curie who probably knew about the research experiments she conducted taking a toll over her health, but yet she continued to work on her scientific research that was her constant source of mental and emotional energy and hence denied any effect of it on her, until her last breath. She is hence described by the poet as the woman who “denied her wounds came from the same source as her power.”

This poem pays reverence to the late scientist Marie Curie who risked her life for the sake of her research which was her greatest source of power. Adrienne Rich, being a whole-hearted feminist, dedicated this poem to send the message of true courage and devotion by a woman in history, through the means of a poem. Marie Curie’s great sacrifice is shown as an act of honour to promote a true role model to the people and especially the women of the future generations. Adrienne Rich beautifully promotes Marie Curie in a different light. She makes people aware not only for her great achievements in radioactive research, but for the true brave woman that she was for preserving and fighting against all odds to keep doing what she rightfully believed in.

Adrienne Rich’s poem revolves around the later years in the life of scientist Marie Curie who had suffered to a great extent from the effects of her research experiments. Her wounds were so deep that even had to undergo cataract operations at one point, but through it all she denied any relation of it with her research work. She believed deeply in her work which was her source of power, but what she didn’t get herself to realize was that it was also the source of all her suffering. Adrienne puts forward Marie Curie as an example of great female leaders whose hidden struggle was not known to many. She urges the women of bothher time and of the future generations to learn from Curie’s sacrifice and strive for such power in their lives.

The poem begins with Adrienne mentioning the valuable and curable characteristics of the elements now made possible to access due to the invention of radiation technology. She later talks about recently having read about Marie Curie’s radiation sickness. She also mentioned that she learnt about Curie’s knowledge of the harmful effects the radiation was having on her but yet denied to acknowledge any of that information and kept moving ahead with her research until her time of death. The poet says that she was a woman who denied the source of her power, which was her research, to be the cause of her wounds too and died in that oblivion to gift the world with her invention.

This poem is recited as an ode to the famous scientist Marie Curie who in the most literal terms gave her life to the cause of radioactive radiation research. Adrienne being the radical feminist that she was, narrates this poem so as to set an encouraging example for the future’s female population to work and strive to achieve excellence in dedicating complete devotion to their passion and live a life as glorious as that of Marie Curie’s.

 

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POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary POWER by Adrienne Rich Summary

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