John Lowney" On "The Dam"

If there is any doubt about the poem's implication of white supremacy with abusive labor practices, the description of the material site of "Power" makes this clear: "The power-house stands skin-white." And immediately after this, the poem returns to its opening statement: "this is the road to take when you think of your country, / between the dam and the furnace, terminal" (OS 29). As impressive an engineering accomplishment as the dam is, its awesome power cannot conceal the devastating social cost of its construction. While the dam harnesses the power of the "white" water of the river in springtime, this whiteness is conveyed as an "excess of white. / White brilliant function of the land's disease" (OS 31). This "scene of power," this "valley's work, the white, the shining" (OS 33), ultimately serves the interests of Union Carbide stockholders, as the poem's subsequent quotation of the stock report suggests. At the same time, however, its "excess" also galvanizes the revolutionary social forces whose collective interests become visible on the page below the company’s bottom line.


Criticism Overview
Title John Lowney" On "The Dam" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Anne F. Herzog, Janet E. Kaufman Criticism Target Muriel Rukeyser
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 22 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication "Truths of Outrage, Truths of Possibility: Muriel Rukeyser's 'The Book of the Dead'"
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