Friday, April 23, 2021

"But this was not what you wanted": The vision of community in Adrienne Rich's "A Woman Dead In Her Forties"

In Adrienne Rich's "A Woman Dead in Her Forties", a dream community of women strip away patriarchal conventions about their bodies: "All the women I grew up with are sitting / half-naked on rocks in sun / we look at each other and / are not ashamed." But the woman of the poem's title has had a mastectomy and is uncomfortable with the terms of this community: "and you too have taken off your blouse / but this was not what you wanted: // to show your scarred, deleted torso." The community based on resisting the male construction of the female body risks replacing that construction with another exclusive bodily ideal. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 23 April 2021)


Audio of Rich reading the poem is available here on YouTube.

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