Sunday, May 16, 2010

Poem of the Week: "Power," by Adrienne Rich

Today is the birthday of Adrienne Rich, a contemporary American poet who is very famous for her political and powerful writing. I spent many years hating Rich for being too into politics and feminism and for being too playful with language. But after writing about her for a paper in my American lit class last year, I began to develop a fondness for Rich. She's not as fun to read as other poets, but her work is important and necessary.

Here's one of my favorite Adrienne Rich poems, "Power." It's about the Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Marie Curie, who I've been obsessed with since high school, when I read a biography about her. I like the idea of two fascinating women - Rich and Curie - coming together in this piece. Enjoy!

Power, by Adrienne Rich

Living in the earth-depositis of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power