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LIT 4930.001
Appreciating Poetry

Fall 2004
Time: Monday and Wednesday
11:00am - 12:15 pm
Room: CPR 348

Class 21

Reading Assignment:

    Poetry: From Diving into the Wreck (48-60)
        Diving into the Wreck (53)

      Prose: Margaret Atwood, "Review of Diving into the Wreck" (280)

      DUE: Group A: Post 11

POEM TO ANNOTATE: Diving into the Wreck (53)

    Class Objectives:

  • Analyze Rich's poems of the 1970s: considering the themes of sexual discrimination, confrontations with history, integration of divided consciousness, lesbian sexuality; and beginning to see her concern with nationhood and Jewish identity.

  • 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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