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An Atlas of the Difficult World

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,159 ratings  ·  58 reviews
In this, her thirteenth book of verse, the author of "The Dream of a Common Language" and "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law" writes of war, oppression, the future, death, mystery, love and the magic of poetry. ...more
Paperback, 72 pages
Published December 17th 1991 by W. W. Norton Company (first published October 17th 1991)
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 ·  1,159 ratings  ·  58 reviews


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Melanie
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else / left to read / there where you have landed, stripped as you are'

The is an extraordinary collection by Adrienne Rich. If you like your poetry brave, original, potent and driven by truth & conviction, there is no better place to start. It's all at gut level and there is a sense that you'll always carry it there.
...more
Adriana Scarpin
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
XIII (Dedications)

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains’ enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes li
...more
Mary
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Where are we moored?
What are the bindings?
What behooves us?
Alexander
Mar 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
All I can say about this book is that several years ago I read the poem that begins with "...I know you are reading this poem..." and it completely revitalized my desire to read more poetry, which (if anyone has seen my list of books) obviously has been a life's pursuit.

Enjoy. This book is awesome.
...more
Heather
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
One of the later poems in this book includes a phrase from Simone Weil, and the full sentence the phrase comes from is given in the Notes: "The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: 'What are you going through?'" The idea of answering or imagining or feeling one's way into that what are you going through? is a central idea of this slim volume of Rich's poems from the late 1980s and early 1990s: it's there from the very start of the very first poem and ke ...more
Matthew Mousseau
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A dark woman, head bent, listening for something
- a woman's voice, a man's voice or
voice of the freeway, night after night, metal streaming downcoast
past eucalyptus, cypress, agribusiness empires
THE SALAD BOWL OF THE WORLD, gurr of small planes
dusting the strawberries, each berry picked by a hand
in close communion, strawberry blood on the wrist,
Malathion in the throat, communion,
the hospital at the edge of the fields,
prematures slipping from unsafe wombs,
the labour and delivery nurse on her brea
...more
Aya
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Because I've always loved Adrienne Rich I hadn't realized the ways her poetry is very different from what I usually read. Rich doesn't work from an ekphrastic place or really an image or purely language driven place ... her poems are driven by their own powerful expressions of economy and conversation. Which isn't to say they don't tell stories or use beautiful image but really what is haunting and striking is what Rich tries to tell and manages to tell so clearly. Her poems have a sort of impac ...more
Alyson Hagy
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
The title sequence is magnificent--a sharp, dark, inventive riff on Whitman's songs to America. Rich's wrestling match with our democracy's beauties and many failures is as relevant now as it was thirty years ago. There are other powerful poems as well, including "Tattered Kadish." ...more
Peycho Kanev
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
XIII       (DEDICATIONS)

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour.    I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains’ enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie
...more
Lisa M.
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The universe keeps delivering me books to read. I was at my favorite used bookstore and looking for my next poetry collection to read. I grabbed this based on the title, only to realize it was by one of my - if not my ultimate - favorite poem! I'll admit, I was a bit down when I started reading this. But Adrienne Rich's writing shines through everything, electric. As always, this collection was beautiful. Well written explorations of historical and personal social justice. ...more
Lisa
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some really strong, interesting poems.
ibana
Mar 06, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt, poems
god i love adrienne rich so much

”What homage will be paid to a beauty built to last
from inside out, executing the blueprints of resistance and mercy”

-

“I know you are reading this poem / because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.”

-
...more
Carolyn C.
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Just not my poet, I guess.

"I don't want to hear how he beat her after the earthquake...."
and in another poem:
"I don't want to know how he tracked them
along the Appalachian trail...."

I didn't want to hear about those things either but then the poem goes on and tells all about it. Even when it's not unpleasant, I just didn't get much out of it.

I stopped reading eventually and skimmed.
...more
Twila Newey
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I will come back and read this one again. The poems are quietly intense. This time I let them wash over, just the language or the image. I did not dig. I did not sit. I read with my brain half lit and my eyelids half closed. Even with this small half awake engagement, this is a book I will pick up again.
Magali
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2019
I really liked it, eventhough it's not my favorite poem collection of Adrienne Rich. My favorite poem of hers is probably in this collection, Dedications, the one beginning with "I know you are reading this poem". Could be the poem I would recommand to anyone asking themselves if they should read poetry. ...more
Galen Green
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jew-stuff
Jewish lesbian feminist icon. “A patriot is not a weapon. A patriot is one who wrestles for the soul of her country.” My favorites were: dedications, Eastern War Time, Tattered Kaddish, For a Friend in Travail, Darklight, and Final Notations.
Anca
Apr 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The love and hurt that is America oozes out of every page I read thus far. The love and hurt of and for this country that has conquered my soul and will never surrender it to its old self again. Rich's poems so eerily speak of this conquest!
...more
Doug Levandowski
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
Rich's ear for language is exceptional, and her poetry is terse and powerful. ...more
Melissa
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
Rachel Teferet
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Beautiful book of poetry. This is my first Rich book of poetry, and it is fast becoming my favorite. Can't wait to read more, even though the work was a bit dark. Really beautiful stuff. ...more
Brenda DeMartini- Squires
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brillant and devastating
kathryn
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did like it.
Fay Van Kerckvoorde
May 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2020
I really wanted to like this more...
There were inspiring parts in the poems and i love 'Dedictations', but the rest of this bundle didn't excite me much
...more
Cheryl
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
The intensity of these poems, of a woman who believes in and loves her country but needs to claim it back and evaluate it, and say the truth, was so appropriate around this election time. I had felt so very often during the Bush years that I needed to claim my country back, to be able to love it despite the direction Bush was taking it, and despite the fact that in Zurich when I visited, there was a Wanted poster for Bush for crimes against humanity. If the election had ended differently, I thin ...more
David Ranney
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
One night on Monterey Bay the death-freeze of the century:
a precise, detached calliper-grip holds the stars and the quarter-
       moon
in arrest:   the hardiest plants crouch shrunken, a “killing frost”
on bougainvillea, Pride of Madeira, roseate black-purple succu-
       lents bowed
juices sucked awry in one orgy of freezing
slumped on their stems like old faces evicted from cheap hotels
into the streets of the universe, now!

Earthquake and drought followed by freezing followed by war.
Flags are bl
...more
Craig Werner
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Much greater book than I'd remember. The title sequence requires intense attention, but it rewards every minutes. Rich points towards the governing aesthetic in section II: "I promised to show you a map you say but this is a mural/ then test let it be/ these are small distinctions/ where do we see it from is the question." Looking out at the landscape of "Waste," Rich recommits herself to a desperate feeling solidarity with those whose lives have been, are being, wasted, aware that the "never-to ...more
Michelle
May 08, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I tried but free verse is apparently not my thing.
Brendan
Feb 02, 2015 added it
Shelves: lady-poets
Rating: 3 1/2

Decent collection; I'm not giving up on Rich because of these pieces. But I'm not dropping everything to buy another book of her poetry.

These were the stand-out poems, for me:

"An Atlas of the Difficult World, IX" - on loneliness

"An Atlas of the Difficult World, XIII (Dedications)" - in which she speaks to her imagined readers

"Olivia" - set in South Africa, during apartheid

"Eastern War Time, 10"


It was a burden for anyone
to be fascinating, brilliant
after the six million
Never mind ju
...more
Liz Shine
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
An Atlas of the Difficult World1> delivers, as Rich's collections always do. Reading her work must be ennobling; It feels as though it must. Even though so much here eluded me in the moment (i.e. I didn't "understand")--it is the lines that strike an immediate chord, then the reflection on the work as a whole that allow me to say I understood and was moved. To me, this collection seems to be a case for art, though it is difficult and there is so much suffering already. Art is better than memory ...more
Helen
Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
In An Atlas of the Difficult World, Rich uses poetry to address difficult topics and historical events. She succeeds, whether it be the brutal murder of two lesbians in America, Apartheid in South Africa, or the Holocaust in Europe. Haunting and strangely beautiful, the poet doesn't shy away from words, phrases, and topics we don't usually associate with our poetry. But each word is carefully placed, there's nothing gratuitous, the one fuck in the whole book stops you cold because it is, in fact ...more
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Adrienne Cecile Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist. Born to a middle-class family, Rich was educated by her parents until she entered public school in the fourth grade. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Radcliffe College in 1951, the same year her first book of poems, A Change of World, appeared. That volume, chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and her n ...more

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“FINAL NOTATIONS

it will not be simple, it will not be long
it will take little time, it will take all your thought
it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
it will be short, it will not be simple

it will touch you through your ribs, it will take all your heart
it will not be long, it will occupy your thought
as a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
it will take all your flesh, it will not be simple

you are coming into us who cannot withstand you
you are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
you are taking parts of us into places never planned
you are going far away with pieces of our lives

it will be short, it will take all your breath
it will not be simple, it will become your will”
33 likes
“- this is where I live now. If you had known me
once, you'd still know me now though in a different
light and life. This is no place you ever knew me.”
23 likes
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