Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pages
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Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich rocks readers with each wave of verse, undulating in the depths of darkness to rise up into the air gasping for breath.  Rich explores human nature, relationships between lovers, sisters, and more, but some of the most visceral poems are about self-reflection and even self-repair.  Beyond the verse and the poet’s exploration of self and humanity, these poems force readers into their own self-examinations, looking at their pasts, the current relationships, and where they wish to be in the future.  The hardest part about these kinds of poems is the internal digging that readers must do.

From "After Twenty Years" (page 13)

It is strange to be so many women,
eating and drinking at the same table,
those who bathed their children in the same basin
who kept their secrets from each other
walked the floors of their lives in separate rooms

How many different selves do we each have? If you’re a mother, there could be the professional self, the mother, and the individual without all the responsibilities and obligations, but Rich explores what all of those selves mean overall and that we must grab on to possibility, learning not to limit ourselves by adopting those labels.  In “When We Dead Awaken,” she explores the toll that the world can take on us, branding us with memories — both good and bad — but also how these experiences inform and shape us.  We have a duty to look out at our world, take in what we enjoy and reject what we do not — strive not only to change ourselves, but also our environment, which she achieves with phenomenal imagery of scarred landscapes by mining and more.

Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich works on several planes of existence at once — the surface self-examination of the poet, then of the reader, but more so of humanity and its impact on the environment and each individual.  At times, these poems will feel like drifting on the current, and at others, readers’ ships will be overrun with waves as Rich bombards them with images and twists in her verse.  There is a distinctly feminist and political bent to some of these poems, particularly those focused on the Vietnam War.  A phenomenal collection worth discussing with book clubs, but also something for quieter reflection.

About the Author:

Poet and essayist Adrienne Rich was one of America’s foremost public intellectuals. Widely read and hugely influential, Rich’s career spanned seven decades and has hewed closely to the story of post-war American poetry itself. Her earliest work, including A Change of World (1951) which won the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Award, was formally exact and decorous, while her work of the late 1960s and 70s became increasingly radical in both its free-verse form and feminist and political content.

Book 16 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.




29th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.


  1. I haven’t read Rich’s poetry since college. You reminded me how much I enjoyed pondering her words.

  2. Oh yes, we women are so many different people. This sounds terrific!