Alice Templeton: On "(Dedications)"

"An Atlas of the Difficult World" ends with a poem entitled "(Dedications)" which calls attention to both the artifice of the poem and to the role of the reader. The entire thirteen-part poem may itself be seen as a monument addressed to the "internal emigrant," the "patriot" who strives to see her life and to see his country clearly. "(Dedications)" addresses those who would read the poem and look to it for its truth-telling, for its clarification of both the guilt and joy of living in a particular place and time. Rich catalogs several readers in different parts of the country, in different work and home situations, and in various states of need and desire, then concludes by acknowledging the dilemma of cultural participation faced by the reader, who is the ordinary patriot, the internal emigrant:

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.

Though Rich continually acknowledges the reader in her feminist poetry, this poem expresses more confidence in the reader than does much of her earlier work. It suggests a camaraderie of need and understanding that Rich does not always encourage in her previous poems, even when she directly addresses the reader, such as at the end of "Contradictions" when the poet tells the reader to "cut loose from my words."

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Criticism Overview
Title Alice Templeton: On "(Dedications)" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Alice Templeton Criticism Target Adrienne Rich
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 24 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Dream and the Dialogue: Adrienne Rich’s Feminist Poetics
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