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Staff Pick: Erica Wright

September 11, 2009


erica_wright-small.jpg On Monday September 21st, Adrienne Rich will read at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. This is more than fifty years after she first took the stage. I highly recommend this reading if you are in the tri-state area. If you are not (or if you teach Monday evening classes like me), I suggest reading (or re-reading perhaps) her masterpiece, Diving Into The Wreck.

I read the title poem as an undergrad naively unaware of the political undercurrents. I still loved it from the first few lines:

First having read the book of myths,

and loaded the camera,

and checked the edge of the knife-blade,

I put on

the body-armor of black rubber

the absurd flippers

the grave and awkward mask.

It was as if she were saying, “what are you waiting for? You have everything you need to go exploring!” Although her discovery is discouraging (women have been edited from history), she also gets to see “the ribs of the disaster / curving their assertion / among the tentative haunters.” The ship—the wreck—of feminism rests at the bottom of the ocean, yet it still asserts its presence for anyone brave enough to dive down. This poem makes you hold your breath the first time you encounter it, afraid that even the slightest movement might break the spell. But Rich delivers from first to last line. With the wonders of technology (and the diligent staff of the Academy of American Poets), you can listen to it online here.

Bio: Erica Wright is the poetry editor at Guernica. Her interview with John Ashbery, Houses at Night, appeared in Guernica’s February 2008 issue.

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