Poetry Mixtape #14: Dedications

The news of Adrienne Rich’s death struck a particularly strong chord in the community of female poets with which I am acquainted, both in person and online. She was a glowing example of not only fine poetry but also of a fine human being. I never got to hear her read in person or to meet her, but her body of work has been with me for a long time.

When I first decided I was going to be serious about writing poetry, my only resource was the public library. Diving into the Wreck was one of the first books of poetry that absolutely blew me away, so much so that I almost gave up before I began. Unfortunately, it took her death to make me realize how long it had been since I had re-read her work, something that is now on my summer to-do list.

I want to share today one of my favorite poems, which happens to be written by Adrienne Rich. Read the poem below:

Dedications – Adrienne Rich

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a gray day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plain’s enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the Intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


I don’t think I can add any commentary that says more than the poem already does. If you want to write:

1.  Use the repeated line “I know you are reading this poem” to address your reader.


2. Imagine the life of one of the readers that Rich briefly (albeit richly) introduces. Write a narrative poem about that reader based on the details she gives.


8 thoughts on “Poetry Mixtape #14: Dedications

  1. Ohmyword. HER words…they have absolutely left me breathless and empty this morning…yet filled. Amazing. Another introduction to an incredible soul. THANK YOU. I cannot wait to embrace this, write.

  2. Pingback: Good Friday Freeforall « Margo Roby: Wordgathering

  3. The amazing thing, to me is that I randomly found a book of her poetry a few years ago, at the local Goodwill and I nabbed it up hungrily being a newbie at poetry and just recently, upon hearing her name because of her passing, I realized what I had found then, such a gem. I’m so glad you’ve featured her today. Btw I totally agree with, De!!

    Thank you!

  4. Pingback: ~THIS POEM~ « Metaphors and Smiles

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