To examine the changes in style with the longer poems that express
Rich's social vision
Margaret Atwood says of the volume we are studying: "the predominant emotions seemed to be
anger and hatred, and these are certainly present; but when I read the poems later,
they evoked a far more subtle reaction. Diving into the Wreck is one of those rare
books that forces you to decide not just what you think about it, but what you think
about yourself. It is a book that takes risks, and it forces the reader to take them
also" (280). I'd like you to read the other poems from this volume to get a feel for
the character of the volume, and that will allow us to analyze the title poem more fully.
Rich's poetry from the 1970s represents a powerful and honest examination
of oppression and pain, but as Atwood explains in her review, Rich avoids
polemic because of her precision in describing the reality and the conditions
of perception. In these poems Rich struggles with her loyalties and identities,
the inadequacy of accepting institutionalized pain, and the coexistence of
beauty and terror in personal ways that invite us to participate in the struggle.
Reading Notes and Discussion Questions
In her review of this volume, Margaret Atwood draws our attention to the
diversity and meaningfulness of the landscapes explored. Rich purposely
chooses place to signify the emotional context of the drama that the poems
relate. In the title-poem, "Diving into the Wreck," the landscape is an
underwater shipwreck. What emotion or significance does the scene itself
convey? What does it contribute as a metaphor for personal discovery?
The speaker identifies several objects in the process of "diving into the
wreck." What is the literal significance of the objects? What do they
convey as metaphors for instruments of a personal journey?
What is the tone of the language in the first four stanzas? How does it
change? How do you know?
What happens to the speaker when she or he reaches the wreck? What is
the meaning of the androgynous imagery?
While the poem is undoubtedly about a process of discovery, it is also
about the myths that shape, or even cause, the wreck. What are these myths?
Why does the poet/speaker carry a book of myths? In what ways are words
maps? What does the metaphor suggest about the nature of words? What does
the metaphor suggest about the potential of poetry? How does this poem
ultimately serve a purpose? serve as a map? serve as a myth?
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