of an illegitimate voice
It has ceased to hear itself, therefore
it asks itself
How do I exist?” – Adrienne Rich
The most striking pattern of note from this passage is the repetition of the word “it” in the second stanza. The word choice of “it” rather than “he” or “she” indicates that the scream is coming from someone that feels inhuman – inhuman because of their (or “it”) inability to be heard not only by others, but also hear themselves. Despite not being able to be heard, the fact that Lorde serves as this being’s voice is significant to note as well. Lorde, in The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power notes the oppression of minority women that has resulted from the “exclusively European-American male tradition” (Lorde, 1978, 91). By serving as the voice of what presumably is a minority woman who doesn’t feel human, Rich is breaking down the doorframe of that male tradition. Rich not only hears this voice, she hears it as a scream. She serves, essentially, as a messenger for all who feel inhuman due to their inability to be heard – not just this particular being.
In terms of Rich’s poem overall, she touches on a number of key themes – one of which is the power of silence. In an earlier poem, she makes a key distinction. She writes about the difference between choosing to be silent and being silenced. There is a certain power associated with that choice – this can be seen in the real world with the significance of silent protests. Somehow, these silent protest seem more effective and powerful than louder, more outspoken forms of protest.
“Until we find each other, we are alone”
The last line of Adrienne Rich’s poem “Hunger” dedicated to Audre Lord reads “Until we find each other, we are alone”. This powerful line grabbed my attention immediately and made me think of sisterhood and representation. There is a sense of aimless wandering many women of color experience within this lifetime that can often be connected to this feeling of being othered. We often find ourselves feeling isolated from larger social spaces due to the differences in our physicality’s that render us exotic, and the intersections of our oppressed identities. In navigating spaces where we forced to battle hypervisibility and invisibility many of women of color can often find themselves feeling a sense of detachment and beyond that they feel unwelcomed. So when I read “Until we find each other, we are alone” I know Rich is making a reference to the importance of sisterhood and representation. She dedicates the poem to Audre Lord, a black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, and warrior. Audre Lord is an important figure to many black women because through her moving presence that can be found within her words many black women, including myself were able to not only connect with her words, but come to the realization that they are not alone. This is what Rich is delivering in the last stanza of the poem. The moment marginalized women connect with each other and create spaces where they are able to openly and freely be themselves unapologetically they will no longer carry the burden of lonesome for they can now look in the eyes of women who know and understand their struggles and feel a sense of solace. This is why her two uses of the word we contribute heavily to the understanding of why she’s speaking of representation through poetry. This passage is another constant reminder, like many I the novel of this idea of suffering due to oppression and the importance of solidarity. I think the author uses poetry as a means of artistic expression to put suffering women face in a language that will cause the audience to critically analyze the ways marginalized women grapple with suffering.
The lines I chose to analyze from the poem Hunger were: “I’m alive to want more than life/ want it for others starving and unborn/ to name the deprivations boring/ into my will, my affections, into the brains/ of daughters, sisters, lovers caught in the crossfire/ of terrorists of the mind”(Rich 138). The first cluster or repetition I see is in the first line with the words “alive” and “life.” There are also the words “daughters, sisters, lovers” which all refer to women so I know the poem is targeting women or more specifically lesbian women or women of color. There is the repetition of the word “want.” I think using the phrase “terrorists of the mind” to describe any type of oppressor is really powerful because it shows that oppression is an act of terror and it stops people from being true to themselves and doing what they want and expressing their erotic because it is a way of messing with one’s mind and deceiving them to think that there is only few options for one’s own life. I think Rich is convincing women that their power is endless and they can make more for themselves than what they are offered by society. Rich says she “want[s] it for others starving and unborn” which puts the idea more broadly saying that every woman should feel empowered no matter what condition they are in and for women to come. What I am really trying to say here is that I think these lines make the oppression of women more violent through her word choice of “terrorists of the mind” expressing that women have endless power through their erotic but are constantly terrorized to hide it.
The lines that I chose were prom the power Hunger which stated “Even our intimacies are rigger with terror/ Quantify suffering?/ My guilt at least is open” (pg. 137). The first thing that stuck out to me about this essay was the fact that she dedicated this poem to Audre Lorde. Audre Lorde is someone that I love and appreciate so much because her works have played an integral part in the person that I have become personally and intellectually. The first line “even our terrors are rigged with terror” reminded me of one of the many themes that always come up in the work of Audre Lorde, which is this idea of genuinely vulnerable intimacy and communities between women.So often there are these attempts at female bonding and relationships, but event hose that we think are the most powerful are still flawed. It is not until we give up this need for power and accepting that we will be able to truly be ourselves with ourselves and others. The next of the poem says “Quantify suffering?’ which reminded me of the heterosexist, patriarchal society that we live in which both of these women, Lorde and Riche, so often speak out against. She is explaining the fact that the problems she going through are not the only problems, yet they are her problems and still exist nonetheless. The last line of my chosen stanza says “My guilt is at least open.” I think that in this line she is referring some of the privileges that some people have over other people. Since she dedicated this piece to Audre Lorde, she may be talking about the privileges that cisgendered, heterosexual white woman possess. I think these lines reshape the idea of language and thought by acknowledging issues that are in certain spaces that are supposed to be protective, like the door frame. For instance, a supposed safe and healthy space for women to exist is created, but the space is only safe and healthy for able bodied white women. These lines are important for my understanding of the reshaping of ideas and language because it exists to bring light to specific issues and then offer some solutions.
“am I simply using us, like a river or a war?
And how have I used rivers, how have I used wars
to escape writing of the worst thing of all-
not the crimes of others, not even our own death,
but the failure to want our freedom passionately enough.”
What I loved initially about this poem was the way Rich addresses a quintessential truth of being a writer: that we use our love and lovers as metaphor and simile and in doing so, we strip away part of the emotion, the connection. We use them as tools to advance ourselves. The use of the comparison to a river and the war as examples is worth noting. Not only does it further a theme that Rich uses throughout the poem of water and violence, but it brings the reader’s attention to the fact that both a river and war can yield similar results. They can both create and take away. By comparing her love as a metaphor similar to them, Rich almost seems to say look, we are both beautiful and destructive. Our love can create and it can take away.
As the poem progresses, Rich worries that she is using these images of love, rivers and war not as an inadequate or inappropriate turn of phrase, but as a way to avoid what she’s really worried about: “the failure to want out freedom passionately enough” (147). Throughout all her works, Rich focuses on the idea of the suffering and survival of women. In this poem, she’s saying that our love does not free us, as we are so often lead to believe, but instead distracts us and keeps us from addressing how passionately we want our freedom.
“She died a famous woman denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power”
Okay so these lines stuck out to me the most because it’s like they are opposite phrases to one another-one states this woman dies denying her wounds (not recognizing her pain and suffering), but she states that she got her power from this same denial. At first this made no sense to me because the way I have learned to process and live life constitutes me acknowledging my pain and suffering– that’s how I grow as a person, that’s how I recognize that the same things that give me pain, have given me power to be better, stronger, more beautiful, understanding, and accepting. So these two phrases were contradictory to me and I could just understand why she was saying this and how she struggled with this. In my group we tried to analyze this and we talked about what her power is. We talked about how she was an amazing scientists and how when women are in positions of power “they lose femininity” and they have to sacrifice so many things– for example a woman who is a doctor most likely spends less time with her child and so she suffers because she cannot be with the child as much and the woman has to hide this pain and deny her suffering in front of her colleagues or else they would scrutinize her. Then, we talked about how she did have cancer and if she wanted to continue to do research and be a scientist she had to deny she was in pain, or else she would have to stop her work because of her health. This made more sense to me. We also talked about the element itself she was purifying is so damn powerful and it did help her kill off some cancer, it was also causing her pain and suffering, so in order to keep treating her cancer, she had to ignore the pain that came with the toxin.
In the poem Cartographies of Silence, the author uses this constant repetition of the word and ideas relating to the topics of language and silence. I felt that silence represented those oppressed and suffering that society doesn’t hear or chooses to ignore. However, “silence is not absence” (140). Even though society may choose to not hear them and there cries, does not mean that they do not exist. The 6th stanza stuck out to me because it was bold. The ideas that Rich develops seem to be used as a way of building up to this stanza throughout the poem. There seems to be this voice that is screaming to come out. This voice or the inner voice is speaking to those suffering and it can no longer be silenced anymore. “It has ceased to hear itself” (141). I noticed that the author didn’t use he, she, or them but instead ”it.” I believe that the author uses this “it” to really strengthen the idea that she is not talking about a person or physical object. Those suffering must break the silence for the continuation of silence leads to no social change. This strong and meaningful passage and message connects to previous readings that have discussed language: why do we write poetry? The author believes poetry is old and ancient. Taking a shot in the dark, my mind began to form this cascade of connections between writing, language, and silence. I believe that the writer is trying to say that writing another form of language in which voices can be heard. Poetry and writing were ways that ideas could be spoken but not heard by society, silence. Thinking about the text as a whole, perhaps language is the medium through which social ideas can be changed and in order for that change to occur silence must be broken. The suffering cannot continue using the “ancient” way of poetry to say what they need to say, but by speaking what’s inside.
“If I cling to circumstances I could feel not responsible. Only she who says she did not choose, is the loser at the end” (Lorde, 151).
In the quote, Lorde addresses the comfort that some women or people in general have in not pursuing and pushing for a better outcome. In order to avoid discomfort, people in society accept the road given to them and blame the world around them for the standards which they live their lives to. There are many barriers in the way for various groups of people and it is always easy to say that the barriers that are systematically placed restricted someone of their full potential but allowing that to occur are more of an atrocity than the failures of society people are engulfed in. People are very cognizant of their worth should make a choice in being better and spreading the option of being better than what society has defined for people as being successful “for a woman” or “for a minority”. Ultimately, there is a choice to do something for the better even if one’s attempts go unnoticed. To allow society to progress a rule out the possible equity feeds into the cycle of people not living their own lives. The predetermined lives of society are mediocre so it is irrational to attempt to conform to them rather than lives beyond their lines. If a failure occurs, even through one’s most firm attempts, that is more fulfilling than to embody the inferior standards of society. One can not blame society for their failures if he or she continues to live an orthodox life of being an American, a woman, a lesbian or etc. No one can ever bash someone for trying and being defeated. There is always a choice to do something and the choice can be in the hands of the ignorant or the hands of a revolutionist.
Adrienne Rich’s poem Hunger, dedicated to Audre Lorde, focuses on the oppression of women in society and the use of writing and personal expression to give women a voice. This specific passage of the poem sounds very sad and like she is longing for something. The repetition of “even our intimacies are rigged with terror” could mean the anxiousness and fear that she senses when trying to voice her opinions. “intimacies” and “terror” are technically opposites, where terror invokes fear but intimacy invokes peace and harmony. Through the poem, Rich tries to reconcile her own experiences with the stories of others. These lines as well as the whole poem conveys her struggle to create a voice for women, especially queer women, who are trapped by the ideals of feminine behavior and ideals in a male-dominated and heteronormative world. The fact that this particular poem is dedicated to Audre Lorde further exposes the fact that she wanted this poem to empower women to speak up about the types of oppression they face. Audre Lorde’s other work describing the erotic also comes into play in this poem. It contains a sense of the erotic that can help women overcome their suffering. The poem urges women to use the power of the erotic in their daily lives to overcome oppression and suffering and create a better world for themselves. The lines create a sense of hope about the future women face and the positive outcomes that can come from their struggle for equality in today’s world.
Silence is far too common, used as a safety blanket to protect people from the vulnerability of voicing raw thoughts and ideas for others to hear. In this section of Adrienne Rich’s, “Twenty-One Love Poems”, she requests that people expose their thoughts. These thoughts have a purpose, and they should not be disregarded and left float into the abyss. Rich refers to mind as the “pond where drowned things live”(147) where the “drowned things”(147) are our muted thoughts. People consistently have a filter turned on, preventing them from saying what they are thinking. Intelligent beings capable of critical thinking and problem solving should not allow these ideas to fall into the dark. When Rich says, “I want to see raised dripping and brought into the sun.”(147), she is suggesting forgetting the filter and spitting out genuine thoughts. The word “dripping”(147) infers that the thoughts should not be revised. Rather than removing them from the water and drying them off with a towel, expose them to the world, saturated with authenticity. These legitimate thoughts are what can trigger intriguing conversation, developing an opportunity for an unlimited flow of ideas. Rich hopes people will allow their thoughts to come out though it will take time. She writes, “It’s not my own face I see there, but other faces,/even your face at another age.”(147). Children are less cautious with their words, less afraid to speak their minds likely because they are naive. Possibly, “your face at another age”(147) is suggesting to return to the mental state of a child, asking four hundred questions a day without a second thought. Also, “another age”(147) may be stating that the ability to vocalize ideas will come in time as some sort of futuristic evolution. Nevertheless, Adrienne Rich is encouraging people to eventually shine the light on their ideas, rather than hide them.