Sarah W. has been bringing poetry to the masses (of her readers) every Wednesday. Each time I ask, where are the contemporary poems? She says something about copyright and how she loves contemporary poetry.

And so, I challenged Sarah to a poem-off. I don’t stick to Wednesdays, because I am not that disciplined, but weekly I will try to bring poems inspired by Sarah’s poems. This past week it was all about feminism and Charlotte Gilman Perkins, she of the yellow wallpaper.

My favorite feminist poet is Adrienne Rich. I am not very good about talking about poems. I have left the explications back to my misspent youth in college and grad school. So I will post the following for you to read, and to get out of it whatever you can.

[The following is Maternal Clause’s Law of Poetry: My mother disliked poetry, but she loved me, and I was a poet. And so I explained to her that there was no “right” answer to a poem. Read a poem twice, or even three times, and take from it what strikes you. Sometimes it is a line, an image, or sometimes it is the whole thing. If you feel something, or it makes you think of something else interesting, then you “got” the poem. If you didn’t get the poem, go read a different poem.]


Living     in the earth-deposits   of our history


Today a backhoe divulged   out of a crumbling flank of earth

one bottle   amber   perfect   a hundred-years-old

cure for fever   or melancholy   a tonic

for living on this earth   in the winters of this climate


Today I was reading about Marie Curie:

she must have known she suffered   from radiation sickness

her body bombarded for years   by the element

she had purified

It seemed 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 pencil


She died   a famous woman   denying

her wounds


her wounds   came   from the same source as her power

Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language (Norton, 1978)

Here is another one of my favorites. (There is an error in the post, that poem is from The Dream of a Common Language too.)

I heard Adrienne Rich read once, and she was small, fierce, and beautiful. She was the fourth poet I had ever heard read in person. I had written my senior thesis on her sonnets (comparing them to the sonnets of Shakespeare and e.e. cummings). I came up to her to get her to sign my book and she stared at me as if I were no one. I went home and cried. [I was twenty-two, and I am tougher now.]

5 responses to “Poem-off

  1. Pingback: Happy Birfday to Moi | Earful of Cider

  2. Pingback: Poetry Wednesday: The Poems of Summer | Earful of Cider

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