Adrienne Rich por Juan Manuel Landeros. Desactivaré los comentarios el viernes 24 de mayo a las 10 am.
As Juan Manuel has analysed in his essay, Rich’s poem “The Stranger” suggests the idea of reconcilement of genders and an invitation of a new generation without boundaries between man and woman. Similarly, this notion of reconcilement, and more precisely, of unification is also presented in Whitman’s poem -entitled in an almost identical fashion- “To a Stranger.” Both poems manifest unification through the poetic voices that perform new entities without boundaries of genders. Nevertheless, the conception of the new identities differs in the two poems. Whilst the poem “The Stranger” conceives a union through a reconcilement of genders after the poetic voice experiences anger; in “To a Stranger” the poetic voice affirms the unification of genders and celebrates it throughout the poem in order to experience it again.
In Rich’s poem after converging firstly the rural and urban counterparts, as Juan Manuel suggests: “[t]he poetic voice makes an analogy between the rural and the urban as an intent to reconcile what we would generally acknowledge as counterparts.” In the seventh line the poetic voice proclaims a possible union between man and woman when it perceives anger, which may manifest “how the old notions or separations of the sexes are becoming obsolete, how it is able to embody the two of them” (Landeros 9).
walking as I’ve walked before
like a man, like a woman, in the city
my visionary anger cleansing my sight
and the detailed perceptions of mercy
flowering from that anger (Rich 6-10)
Later on, the unification is stated in the fifteenth line when the poetic voice announces, “I am the androgyne” in order to be acknowledged.
I am the androgyne
I am the living mind you fail to describe
in your dead language
the lost noun (Rich 15-18)
On the other hand, from the beginning in Whitman’s poem the poetic voice extols the unification of genders through celebrating an invitation to experience the union.
PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me as of a dream,) (Whitman 1-2)
In this manner, in the following lines of the poem the poetic voice portrays the unification through a list of actions that both man and woman perform in everyday life.
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me, (Whitman 4-5).
Moreover, the boundaries of gender disappear by means of a physiognomic enumeration. In this manner, the poetic voice unifies a new entity through taking into account both female and male features.
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return, (Whitman 7).
To conclude, both poetic voices present new identities that may be called “strangers” who embody a unification of genders. In Rich’s and Whitman’s poems there is a suggestion, as a sort of invitation, on creating “strangers” with new minds based on different perceptions. On the one hand, in “The Stranger” the poetic voice emerges through anger to proclaim its “stranger” with reconcilement of genders and hopeful autonomy. As Juan Manuel explains: “the poetic voice is able to transcend divisions, stereotypes, and social conventions through language and leave its mark in new generations (this is symbolized in the birth of the innocent new born child)” (9). On the other hand, in “To a Stranger” as the poetic voice celebrates the existence of reconcilement of genders from the very beginning of the poem, the suggested new identity, this is to say the “stranger,” expects to be met once again. In fact, in Whitman’s poem it is possible to notice this expectation in the title that seems to address a well-known “stranger.”
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you (Whitman 9-10).
In “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” the poetic voice depicts a woman that is constrained by the oppression of “ordeals she was mastered by” (10). The strains of marriage are presented as factors that terrify (9) and that dominate as a “massive weight” (7), as the constrictive presentation of the poem in couplets. The tigers are also presented as brilliant amid “a world of green” (2) similar to the manner in which her creative expression can be seen as a light amongst the oppression she is experienced, or as the poem as an expression despite the constrictive presentation of the couplets. In the poem, we may see the depiction of a woman that, even though she feels subjugated in a marriage, is able to find her own creative urge and engages on the expression of her own situation. She is able to present herself as a prancing tiger that stands out bright in a world covered in green. The poem may be commenting on the possibility of creation even in the most difficult circumstances, as, even after her death, her tigers keep on prancing.
Juan already mentioned, this poem relies on the chivalric tradition. We must remember that works such as The Faerie Queene, some parts of The Canterbuty Tales or Sri Gawain and the Green Knight, used the description of the armor as a synecdoque of the knight’s character. Rich starts from this tradition in order to criticize it.
Although the poem is titled “The Knight”, it focuses mainly in describing the armor rather than the knight himself. More than being an important part in the depiction of his self, it becomes an individual entity since the very first lines:
A knight rides into the noon,
and his helmet points to the sun,
and a thousand splintered suns
are the gaitey of his mail.
In these lines, the armor is being personified. Even though the word “point” may also be read as if the helmet were just positioned towards the direction of the sun, the fact that the mail is able to feel “gaiety” suggests us rather that the halmet is the one that decides the direction the night must follow. After this first stanza, as Juan Manuel pointed out, the poem starts to convey images of decay. However, these images refer to the mai under the armor:
A knight rides into the noon,
and only his eye is living,
a lump of bitter jelly
set in a metal mask,
betraying rags and tatters
that cling to the flesh beneath
and wear his nerves to ribbons
under the radiant casque.
Juan Manuel observed that it was the only section that allowed to the knight’s body. I would like to add to this comment that what we see is only one eye so as to believe that the knight can partially see. Moreover, it is in its way to decomposition. In contrast to this putrefaction and decay, the casque is still radiant.
In this manner, the armor that stands for a whole tradition, or as Juan puts it, a patriarchal tradition is separated from the man that wears it. Moreover, in the final stanza in turns into the prison of the man that lies “between the walls of iron.” All this make me conclude that Rich suggests that tradition and convention does not affect only women but also men as well.
It seems very clear that in “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” Rich makes plain the necessity for female- self-definition. I find the image of Aunt Jennifer embroidering the tigers very powerful for it is she who is creating them and giving them life. Although as Juan Manuel suggests, ultimately there is the that “the male domination and tradition are not only minimized, but also acknowledged as possible to be overcome” for me is not powerful enough so as to give a feeling of relief to the poem. It is Aunt Jennifer who keeps on being pressed by “The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band.” There is no sense of ultimate relief and in my opinion the fact that the only space where Aunt Jennifer is able to create life turns out to be an artificial decorating item, worsens the feeling of asphyxia. Because the only instance we see her alive she is sewing and knitting and then we see have a vision of her buried, it all foreshadows no sense of improvement in her remaining days, how can relief be found in this poem?
Juan states that in the poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” the rhyme and form “evoke a joyful sensation that goes against the overall feeling of the poem” I was unsure of this since the rhythm is so strict I thought it could signified the oppression of the figure of the uncle. But upon further examination I realize that Juan is indeed right, since the poem is a constant fight between the stationary and movement. While Aunt Jennifer is made to stand still under the symbolic weight of her wedding ring, her tigers are portrayed as always moving. The poem is separated into couplets created by enjambments that give the impression of movement or velocity. The message is a happy one for the prancing of the tigers is imprinted in