Diving Into the Wreck

I was already a fan of Adrienne Rich when I read this book, but it became the book that, for me, solidified my connection to her. Reading it some thirty years after it was written, I felt like I could see some of the work in it, some of the intentions, some of the politics, but that the poems, as pieces, and the collection, as a whole, still stood.

I think of “Diving Into the Wreck,” the title piece, as a kind of ars poetica. In the poem, the speaker–guess what?–dives into a sunken wreck and examines the detritus there. For me, the act of writing poetry is just this kind of explorations. We go in with expectations and curiosity, develop questions, and leave, hopefully, having answered some of them, or found something wholly new there.

The poems of this volume are plain-spoken, somewhat stark even, lacking some of the more formal structures and considerations in Rich’s later (and earlier) work, so reading her books backwards in time makes this volume feel wild, unstructured, and fearless. But like many of the books that speak to me, it is haunted, it is shadowed, it is aware that despite the poems, the world is full of shadows, full of wrecks, full of questions.

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