Denying Her Wounds

“She died a famous woman denying

her wounds


her wounds came from the same source as her power” (p. 135)


What initially caught my eye in this stanza was the juxtaposition of her wounds and her power and how they are both born from the same source. After reading the subsequent poems in the book, it becomes apparent that the author almost always mentions suffering when mentioning power and vice versa. The two seem inherently linked. My first thought was to relate this to something that we’ve been discussing in my Women and Gender Studies class. In the 19th century, women were expected to be domestic and submissive to their husbands, tethered to the home and hearth. However, many of the women of that time actually claimed that the home was where they felt most powerful, where they were in charge of shaping the men of the industrial revolution and therefore the future of the country. Their home was both their oppressor and their source of power. I also found the repetition of the phrase “denying her wounds” striking. This denial is clearly important; perhaps we (as women) must deny our wounds, or our weaknesses, in order to achieve power in the misogynistic power dynamic we exist in? Furthermore, perhaps as women gain more power, we become that much more exposed and open to attack. Female politicians, for example, are held to a much higher degree of scrutiny and mudslinging than male politicians are. Perhaps as women ascend to higher positions of power, they are exposed to a whole new slew of wounds and attacks. Yet in order to maintain a position of power, or even gain more power, women must deny that the very thing that gives them power is killing them.

4 thoughts on “Denying Her Wounds”

  1. Hi Louise,

    I really like the connections you made between Rich’s tendency to link power and suffering and how women found power in their oppression and forced domesticity in the 19th century. I also think it is interesting to note the parallels between how Rich frequently frames power and Adrienne Lorde’s interpretation and discussion of the Erotic, in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” Lorde describes the erotic as a source of power for women, the recognition of which has, historically, led to the vilification and condemnation of such women (meaning women who gain power from their ownership of the erotic).

  2. I love the way you connected her work to a historical context which you learned in another class. Very insightful and interesting to know when reading this work. I also enjoyed your connection of pain and power. Rich often seems to find that the two connect. I’d venture to add another example of this from Twenty One Love Poems: “her suffering is dead. I am her descendant./I love the scar tissue she handed on to me,/but I want to go on from here”. In this piece, I believe Rich writes of the way in which women before her have suffered and fought and passed on to her the result of this suffering in scars. With this scar tissue, she feels the power to move forward and away from oppression.

  3. I think this is a great outlook on this poem. I also feel that these two words seemed linked to one another. I think that as women, if we receive power it can almost hurt us because men fear that power and will do things to get rid of that power, causing wounds. I agree with your idea that as women perhaps we must deny these wounds in order to achieve the power, because if we let them get us down we will never rise and never achieve that greater power.

  4. It’s very interesting that you were able to tie in your analysis with something beyond the confines of the poem and Curie herself. For me, I initially saw this as some sort of metaphor for an emotional crossroad the narrator was facing. But actually, alluding to how women can simultaneously be able to create power for themselves while being vulnerable to weakness, was a great commentary on how Rich uses suffering and Curie’s life as an overarching metaphor for the female experience.

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