Adrienne Rich’s “Power”

by Erin
Written for September 22, 2006

“Power” by Adrienne Rich is a free verse poem written in a unique style. It is an extraordinarily creative, vivid work of literature, in which Adrienne Rich effectively utilizes the use of scrupulous diction to communicate her point. It portrays a truthful message which all readers can understand and connect with their lives. The point that Adrienne Rich is making in “Power” is that it requires strength to endure the suffering that the world delivers.

The careful diction of the first two sections of this poem excellently presents the theme of suffering and the morose tone. The first line of the poem, “Living   in the earth-deposits     of our history,” explains that the people of today are living in the unwanted leftovers of the people from the past. The “crumbling flank of earth” (2) illustrates that much brokenness and division exists in the world. In line 4, the words “for fever     or melancholy” suggest both physical and mental suffering. Finally, the wording of the last line of this section (5), “for living on this earth     in the winters of this climate” suggests that the world is a very cold – as in unfriendly – place. All of these examples from the poem dictate that the world provides many sources of suffering.

The reference to Marie Curie in the last two stanzas of “Power” clearly exemplifies the point Adrienne Rich is trying to make. Marie Curie was someone who worked passionately and dedicated much of her life to make advancements in science. Because of her work with radioactive elements, she fell ill. The speaker in the poem describes her as “a famous woman     denying her wounds”, which is an example of Curie’s attempt to hide her suffering, which obviously took a lot of strength to endure. The speaker completes his or her story with “her wounds     came     from the same source as her power,” meaning that Curie’s work caused her disease, but it also gave her a meaning – and thus the strength – to endure the trials of her life.

The tone of the poem also helps depict the overall theme of the poem. The poem, in general, is very depressing with only a slight ray of hope. All of the dismal lines about the pained, broken world tell about the suffering the world deals to everybody. The small portion of the poem, “one bottle     amber     perfect     a hundred-year-old / cure” (3, 4), is the hopeful glimmer. This cure that the speaker describes is power, which is necessary to endure the suffering and carry on. The feeling that the poem exudes helps the reader understand the message that Adrienne Rich is trying to convey with her poem.

Adrienne Rich’s “Power” is, appropriately, an incredibly powerfully and creatively written poem. The diction clearly makes the difference in this poem, and nearly every single word of it is significant to the presentation of the poem’s theme. The word choice artistically and visibly illustrates the point that Rich tries to make with her poem. She also uses the brilliant example of Marie Curie to help communicate her message. Adrienne Rich deftly and successfully employed her talents and literary elements to express her point: it takes power to endure the suffering.

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