Friday, November 19, 2021

Asking a poem, "What do you mean to me today?": Adrienne Rich's "Power"

In a session today discussing John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" and Adrienne Rich's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" and "Power", I followed Stephanie Burt's observation that "Power" contains "the power to mean many things, to do many things, for many readers, or for one reader at successive encounters." From this, I derived a question to ask Donne's poem and Rich's poems: "What are you saying to me today?" The first comments were on "Power": with its themes of radiation, power, and disease, the students said, this poem written in 1974 about Marie Curie and an excavated nineteenth-century medicine bottle spoke to them of nuclear power, climate catastrophe, and the coronavirus pandemic. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 November 2021)


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