Needle's Eye

Adrienne Rich - "Divisions of Labor" (1'54" with introductory remarks; 1'30" without intro here). Adorno somewhere characterizes the separation of intellectual from manual labor as the secular model for the theological concept of original sin. In this poem composed in 1988, collected in Time's Power in 1989, republished in the Monthly Review in 1999, and here performed in Buffalo in October 2000, Adrienne Rich satirizes faddish and ineffectual first-world "theory" and sacralizes the labor of third-world women, seeing in the latter's remaking of "the world / each and every morning" a more authentic form of work than that performed by the writer's hand, whether her own ("blistered" by the "sacred wax" at poem's end) or another's (the exemplarily foolish hand that practices "deconstruction" on "the prose of Malcolm X" in audia six). • I would divide the poem's thirty-seven audias into five asymmetrical groupings: the first two comprised of three audias each and progressing semantically from general ("revolutions") to particular (political magazines); a long third section in which seventeen audias parse out a single sentence with "the women" as subject and compound verbs formed of "are" plus seven participles (licking, trading, splitting, producing, fitting, teaching, watching) for predicates; the brief fourth section, which generalizes from the particulars of the preceding section (thus echoing in reverse the transition from general to particular in sections one and two); and the closing, eleven-audia section that shifts from the plural subject of sections three and four ("the women") to the singular ("a woman") and introduces the poem's narrator as subjective witness ("I have seen.... I have felt"). • Lexis: "irresolute" to modify "hot water" in audia 14; "quenched" as euphemism for death in audia 20. • Sonic patterning: audias 5-11, alliteration in /p/, also short "i" in combination with other fricatives and plosives (polishes, politics, licking, slip, plastic, splitting); the prevalence of sibilants from audia 27 to the end (especially the /sk/ to /s...k/ of "scorched" and "sacred"). • Alternative ways to "run the blend"? If "pure theory" (input 1) is a "candle" (input 2), then....

PDF of poem here. More Rich at PennSound, including "Driving Home from Robin Blaser's Reading." About Rich at MAP. More at Michael Klein profile and interview with Rich for Boston Phoenix in 1999. • Lipstick tracklist. Get fed.

Visual representation of a phrase by Adrienne Rich

Monday -- 10 July 2006 -- permalink

The Lipstick of Noise is a product of the Third Factory • Inspired by the music blogs • And by Paul Blackburn's reel-to-reel deck. Intending to make good use of PENNSound and other sources of digital audio files of poetry • Comments welcomeXML.