Louise Kertesz: On "The Dam"

We are meant to hold these clusters of meaning in the mind as they reveal the fullness of reality. Some of the meanings the poet is allowing to expand into their conteallations are these: in "Power" death is both finality and source of power; but in another sense, one cannot say that power has any source, any beginning or end -- thus the first line of "The Dam." But that line is followed by


in the green season, in the sudden season

the white the budded

    and the lost.

Thus more contradictions: power does have a beginning and an end. Assertion and counter-assertion, "phases of essence." In Rukeyser’s poetry we are rarely permitted to rest at any phase.

There follows a description of the power of flowing water, "diverted water," "White brilliant function of the land’s disease." As in "Alloy" we have power out of illness. As in "Absalom" a voice interrupts the natural description and associates the power of this river with the self-renewing, self-healing energy of the universe as it has been described in myth and religion . . . . After another page of description of water and dam, the poem encompasses the document at the appropriate point: a dialogue among members of the inquest further reveals the soullesness of the corporation’s role in the tragedy. Then a line of stock quotation in newstype is incorporated into the poem. But the lines immediately resume their flowing description of the power of water.

This is a perfect fluid, having no age nor hours,

surviving scarless, unaltered, loving rest.

The effect of the lines’ movement and content is a healing, like the self-healing of a river. These obstructions (the machinations of commerce), these dead rocks in the path of flowing, live power are submerged in the watercourse. Even that murderous word -- glass -- (hear "hill of glass" from "Alloy") is redeemed: water is "willing to run forever to find its peace / in equal seas in currents of still glass."


Criticism Overview
Title Louise Kertesz: On "The Dam" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Louise Kertesz Criticism Target Muriel Rukeyser
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 22 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Poetic Vision of Muriel Rukeyser
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Contexts No Data Tags No Data

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