Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose

Adrienne Rich's Evolution as a Poet

Adrienne Rich’s poems in The Fact of a Doorframe dramatize the conflict between what patriarchal society dictates women should be and what they are. In her earlier poems, like “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” she uses tight rhyme and careful control as she struggles to keep the conflict below the surface. However, her later poems, like “Rape” and “A Woman Dead in Her Forties,” are less cautious in their investigation to explore women’s issues and leave behind Rich’s past niceties in form. Finally, after Rich is able to find her own unique voice and the voice for women everywhere, is she able to reach her full potential as an artist and a revolutionary.

The poems from Rich’s early career, such as “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”(4) and “At a Bach Concert,”(5) written in 1951, possess a restrained visual rhythm and sparse use of enjambment. Both have exactly sixteen lines, though the first has three stanzas and the second has four. The restrictive nature of these poems’ forms is very representative of Rich’s personal struggle to abide by constrictions of patriarchal society.

The tone of “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” reflects this sense of restriction, using the binary opposition of Aunt Jennifer, bound by the confines of marriage, and tigers, free and...

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