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This report is taken from PN Review 247, Volume 45 Number 5, May - June 2019.

Diving into What Wreck?
Part I
Vahni Capildeo
The first time I read Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck was probably in the 1990s or early 2000s, during the course of a relationship so quietly abusive that I may never write about it directly. I envy the mythmaking ability, or the clarity, of people who can remember poetic ‘first times’: their first encounter with a word, ‘gnu’ or ‘yeast’ or ‘scintillating’ or ‘quotidian’, their first encounter with an author, or indeed with poetry. I cannot vouch for the memory of ‘first times’; only fought-over or pirated intervals, within which always-explosive limits it became vaguely or fiercely possible to do things alone. In any case, to the reader I then was, Diving into the Wreck seemed new. I had not realised that the publication date was the same as the year of my birth, and that its stripe of feminism had stayed news in the course of my individual life, and the countless other grab-and-run-reader lives resembling mine. Re-reading is a quick way to feel older; especially when what drives the reader back to a foremother’s poem is the need to set it alongside astonishing long poems by one’s own younger contemporaries, such as Sumita Chakraborty and Gail McConnell – more of that in the next magazine, as this is Part I of II.

Staying with the earlier point, for a moment: what is an ‘older’ reading – perhaps one that is more crowded, and more volatile? Perhaps one that is more self-aware? I wish that critics, and ‘ordinary’ poetry readers, were trained in self-questioning their unconscious world­building as second nature, ...


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