Adrienne Rich

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A Woman Dead In Her Forties

Rich, Adrienne

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem


A Woman Dead In Her Forties is divided into eight sections, each consisting of between 5 and 10 stanzas, which vary in length from 1 to 4 lines. The poem explores bereavement due to breast cancer (perhaps of one woman, perhaps of many--and perhaps there is no difference); it also interrogates the privacies of loss. One of the tensions in the poem is between what is said and what cannot be said, both for those who are ill and those who are not, those who have died and those left behind. This is expressed in the half-conversations and snippets of memory in the narrative, as well as in the form of the poem itself with its pauses, staccato jumps, and prolonged caesuras.

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